The start of a new year is a good time to reflect and assess if we are doing things in the right way, the smart way, the innovative way.
Agriculture is an industry which is built on continuous improvement, despite the seasonal effects of weather and the markets deviating and slowing progress. Many farmers past and present are constantly looking for areas in which they can improve - increasing yields, reducing weed pressure, upgrading machinery.
However, this behaviour can and is all too readily overlooked. Many farmers see improving their farm year-on-year as simply what it takes to survive and to be profitable.
It's essential right now for a spotlight to be shone on farmers who thrive from improving practices, who think about problems from a different angle and who in many aspects of life, are practicing innovation.
The innovation mindset is exactly what we're describing. Trialing and experimenting with new ideas and learning from every situation.
Here are the common traits of this mindset that can bring long-lasting benefits if practiced:
Being able to see the bigger picture and have long-term goals is fundamental to being an innovator, and a farmer. Knowing how market behaviour might affect the local farm, and vice versa, is interwoven into farm management. Planning crop rotation years in advance is commonplace now and environmental sustainability is becoming a key aspect of agriculture. Being aware of how the small can affect the large is a very valuable skill.
Practicing mindful observation and recording thoughts leads to habits that will be invaluable no matter the season. Weather may not be controllable but how we respond and learn from it can always be improved. Breaking down any improvement into smaller steps to keep it manageable is a tried and tested way to ensure it continues.
Being comfortable with ambiguity is a noticeable aspect of leaders in all businesses, and luckily UK agriculture is definitely not short of uncertainty! Frustration from so many parts of the farm can develop where there seems to be no clear decision. Learning how to identify and accept these specific areas will focus you to innovate within or around them, and also reduce the stress they cause. The more conscientious you are of your own ability to adapt to adversity, the more innovation we'll see.
Embracing change is essential as it leads to thinking about things in a different way. Change is happening quicker and quicker in most elements of modern life and whether for the good or for the bad, a positive approach to the change will get the best out of it.
Courage is always required in the face of change and risk-generating innovation, especially in these times (dare I say Brexit!). It is never easy changing course, but with conviction, and the right mindset, it can be manageable and even enjoyable.
Creativity is thinking up new ideas, testing them and going back to the drawing board. Experimentation is the fuel for innovation and being at ease with creating the new solutions makes the process as engaging as possible.
Investing is inevitably required to change and adapt. Time and resource is spread thin in agriculture, but to not invest in the future or longer-term projects is becoming a very risky strategy in itself. Practicing how to invest in innovation appropriately can start today, and they say 'growth begets growth begets growth'!
Nowadays, innovation comes in many forms (from AI decision-making to automated robotics) and they should be seen as useful tools in solving some of the trickiest problems we have in farming - are you in the right mindset to take control of the changing times and reap the benefits?
There are many moving parts of daily life which can be made easier, we just need the impetus to hold them still as we go in and tweak. Go out and seek new technology, expose the misconception that farmers are resistant to change, and embrace the innovation mindset.