World Ag Expo 2018 Wrap-Up
The World Ag Expo is the largest expo of its kind, which is why I could not wait to witness the 51st Expo February 13-15, 2018. After a couple connecting flights to eventually land at the Fresno Yosemite airport, I found it was well worth every leg cramping moment. The scene was set as we flew north up the Central Valley flanked by the Sierra Nevada mountains to the east and Pacific coastline in the distant west. The welcoming airport, supported by replicas of the area’s nationally recognized Sequoia trees, was an appropriate welcome to the local landscape. It also happened to display this wonderful piece of artwork as well!
Sonny Perdue, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, opened the first day of the expo with a town hall-style meeting, encouraging questions from local farmers and industry leaders. Hot topics ranging from the upcoming farm bill, looming regulations, NAFTA, and immigrant labor heated up the chilly morning on the International Agri-Center grounds.
Despite growing up on a farm, I was quickly identified as an outsider after inquiring about the widely publicized ‘tri-tip sandwiches’. The lean and appetizingly spiced grilled steak sandwich are to this area of California as the pork tenderloin is to Iowa or po’ boys are to Louisiana. It is a must-try if you ever attend the expo, or find yourself anywhere near Fresno.
The World Ag Expo offered up not only dignitaries and digestive marvels but highlighted the balance between technological advancement and proven traditional methods. If you attended the show and walked the aisles of Pavilion A, you undoubtedly witnessed the falconer with his five feathered employees. Obviously, this drew quite the crowd and shadowed his neighboring booths, one of which, ironically, was an agricultural drone business aptly named Aero Hawk. To my knowledge, this booth placement was not planned, although kudos to the subtle wit of the expo organizers if it indeed was intentional.
This contrast of the traditional and progressive captured the essence of the show. Thousands attended the expo in search of new technological advantages. At both our produce and dairy booths, we spoke with many producers and manufacturers who were looking for higher quality testing and the global breadth of expertise that Eurofins offers. Yet every conversation returned to traditional values of wanting a local and personal relationship with the lab. This was a major reason why we decided to invest in the San Joaquin valley with our new Eurofins Microbiology lab in Fresno.
The three days we spent in the fields outside of Tulare, California also exhibited the broad diversity of partnerships which seem to be a prerequisite to be competitive in the global marketplace. While diversity in agriculture is nothing new to the producers and manufacturers in the fertile valley, with every walk of life dusting their footprints on the 2.6 million square feet of exhibit space, the variety of people went deeper than the traditional ethnicity or gender.
What the World Ag Expo showcased was the growing necessity of trusted partnerships with varied expertise. As more and more companies rightly focus on their core strengths, they reach out for assistance in areas outside their wheelhouse like data insights, herd health, aerial analysis and, of course, falconers. Even behemoth, vertically integrated companies are seeking outside experts in niche, yet critical areas. Our conversations with many producers and manufacturers had a consistent theme of scientific expertise. They are looking for quality and reliability, not to merely ‘outsource’ testing. They are seeking trusted partnerships to help them navigate and find transparency in a world of food quality that is growing more complex by the day.
My first experience at the World Ag Expo was eye-opening, and I can assure that it won’t be my last. Whether I am lucky enough to attend the 52nd expo next year, or the 72nd 20 years from now, I am confident that the dichotomy of progressive technology and traditionally trusted handshakes will still dominate these grounds.