By John Clement
March 23, 2012
Canadian agriculture has a history of great productivity gains. In fact, the publication called The Real Dirt on Farming suggests that overall agricultural productivity in Canada has increased by 300 per cent since the 1950s. Most of these productivity gains have been achieved through improved plant and animal genetics, better management of soils, plus strong strategies on pests, diseases and other production factors.
But despite those achievements, agriculture continues to face the challenge of feeding an increasingly populated planet. And in addition to the challenge of producing enough food, the range of food products being developed ranges from simple foodstuffs to highly value-added offerings. Productivity gains must bridge both the quantity and quality of products to meet today’s challenge.
Amanda Lang, senior business correspondent for CBC News, believes that Canada needs to improve its overall productivity through a focus on innovation. Speaking at a recent conference of the Agricultural Management Institute, she said that productivity sounds boring, but is the one thing we have in our control. And she states that productivity is not about working more hours, but creating more wealth during those same hours.
Lang believes that Canada needs to focus squarely on innovation in order to improve technology and processes. But she says the biggest challenge will be to change our corporate approaches to encourage people to ask basic questions about why a process is used, or why another one isn’t. Part of the problem, she believes, is that Canadians have created a school system and workplaces that reward compliance rather than innovation. Lang said that a move towards more collaboration could be a huge boost to Canada’s innovation and would boost overall productivity.
According to Lang, those in agriculture could benefit from three approaches: stop doing things consumers don’t find valuable; make incremental changes that increase margins; and collaborate with customers to discover what would make them happier with a product.
Lang’s advice is particularly well suited to those companies participating in value chains, or for farmers participating in management clubs. Collaboration in these circles can go a long way towards making more efficient use of resources, or exploring new market opportunities. And if Lang is right, it will help to keep Canadian agricultural productivity gains on a steady incline.
John Clement is the Director of Communications and Research for the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario. The CFFO Commentary represents the opinions of the writer and does not necessarily represent CFFO policy. The CFFO Commentary is heard weekly on CFCO Chatham, CKNX Wingham, and UCB Canada radio stations in Chatham, Belleville, Bancroft, Brockville and Kingston and in Brantford and Woodstock. It is also found on the CFFO website: www.christianfarmers.org. CFFO is supported by 4,200 family farmers across Ontario.