Transforming Agribusiness for the Digital World - Introducing the Elusive Pegasus Unicorn
Similar to the industrial revolution that forever changed industry, the Farm to Fork value chain (agriculture through food retailing) is on the precipice of its own revolution, but this one relies less on steam and steel and more on analysis and algorithms. While the last agricultural revolution focused on science-based technology, this one focuses on data and information technology. All players across the Farm to Fork value chain have a unique opportunity to leverage breakthroughs in Big Dataand IoT, so they can find new ways to meet the needs of Food2040 and feed 9 billion people high-quality nutrition.
Perspective on the Problem
Having founded and/or led the five largest global food and agricultural professional service practices over the past 2 decades, I’ve seen agriculture move from needing turnaround management, to the march towards consolidation, to the radical advances in agronomy and husbandry science-based technologies provided. The next great revolution in agriculture will be tied to data science and information technology.
Food and agriculture is the least digitized industry and will have to become digital at a dizzying pace, much like how many emerging countries avoided copper wire in telecommunications and went straight to digital. Such is the leap agriculture and food need to make in order to reach the total factor productivity needed to feed 9 billion people by 2040 and the needs of 4 billion new middle class members (and for individual companies to realize the opportunity associated with such a radical global shift in demographics).
But the truth is, the lack of digitization in food and agriculture is just as much the fault of the information technology industry. Agriculture and food have historically been “back burner” industries for IT, which likes to chase retail, technology, healthcare and other “hotter” sectors.
Global businesses offering new breakthroughs for other industries are considered to be Pegasus types. A worthy name, indeed - the term originates from the Pegasus Company of the British military that does training and selection, but creates “cookie cutter” soldiers from which the branches then have to train for specific billets or purposes. They do quality work if you are a square hole for their square peg.
But on the flipside, they are spread out too thin. They work with many industries, and focus on “hot” industries like healthcare, technology and telecommunications to focus what little sector expertise they can muster. Food and agriculture are just “lumped into” other practices (often spread out over a dozen different practices) versus being treated as something different and special. As a result, Pegasus types have little industry expertise in general and even less expertise in an industry they have largely treated as a “fly over”.
Truthfully, agriculture and food production are areas where only a tiny percent of the population has direct experience. Being one of the most regulated and counterintuitive industries, you have to know it specifically versus assume it will be similar to adjacent industries. Disaster happens if you treat animal health like human health, or try to create a commodity trade risk management platform for soft commodities like you do for hard commodities. It gets even worse when IoT teams with traditional light and heavy manufacturing experience try to take that to a grain processing or animal slaughter facility. They just don’t understand what they are looking at or how you make a profit (or where you are liable to take a loss). Not to mention, they just don’t fit in or win the trust of your production employees.
On the other hand, the Unicorn is an organization that solves a specific issue. They also really know their industry, so they don’t make the rookie mistakes of the Pegasus due to that knowledge. But only working with a Unicorn type business also has its pitfalls.
In agriculture and food, many small technology firms have been created by industry “insiders” that solve real problems but simply lack the disciplined coding and technology skills and/or won’t integrate with the dozen or more other Unicorns you would have to work with to get a real end-to-end solution. They often lack the cutting edge solutions and are a generation or two behind in critical areas like satellite imagery analysis, IoT or Big Data. They also are at constant risk of being taken over by a hostile competitor or simply running out of funding. They rarely update as quickly as the industry changes (particularly on regulatory matters). So they quickly go “out of date”.
The Unicorn is just as frustrating as the Pegasus.
Combining the Two
For this reason, many agriculture and food companies tried to create their own solutions, but at great cost. Essentially, they would buy a series of Unicorns hoping that through sheer amount these combined Unicorns would act like a true Big IT company. But they never did.
Or, they would decide to use their multi-billion-dollar turnover to create a scalable Pegasus that had Unicorn understanding of the industry because it was staffed by internal resources. But, inevitably, often being engineering and science-based companies, they weren’t suited for the change of thinking required to create high technology and software or work with Big Data and analytics. And even if they were somewhat successful, what was the cost? They invested their most expensive and innovative labor into something far removed from their core mission.
What was needed was not for agriculture and food to suddenly transform into high technology and data science, but for a big IT company to build a team that knows each end-to-end major Farm to Fork value chain sector.
Enter Luxoft, the Pegasus Unicorn everyone in agribusiness was waiting for.
So when it comes to Luxoft’s agriculture team, they’re nothing to scoff at. Over 70% of the team has master’s degrees or PhDs, and their years of experience are unmatched by other global players. In addition, over 20% have direct farming experience. This allows them to conceptualize visually what actual farm or agribusiness functions encompass, no matter how complicated. Being knowledgeable in all areas of what you create is a strength Luxoft greatly excels at.
With Luxoft as the Pegasus Unicorn agribusiness needs, technology can move forward at a brisker pace through increasing productivity and creating applicable and smart software at a lower cost. The agribusiness industry doesn’t have to bother with creating tech, and can have more time for the unique “one thing” they do better than anyone else. The Luxoft Pegasus Unicorn is truly the mythical creature they have all been searching for.
Be sure to check out our brochure that expands on our influence in agribusiness, and feel free to drop me a line at: