Guest Opinion: Opportunity, Innovation, and Storytelling
By Maureen Ballatori. Originally published in New York Farm Bureau Grassroots newspaper in January 2023.
Opportunity dominated conversations at the New York Farm Bureau annual conference in Buffalo. While Focusing on the Future, the talk on the floor and on the stage was all about the positive ways we would adapt, advance, and achieve.
In my own presentation, I highlighted three sectors that are important for NY food, beverage, and agriculture brands: consumer packaged goods, agriculture technology, and agritourism.
Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG)
Empty grocery store shelves revealed the fragility of our food systems. Covid affected our food ecosystem in a way that most people have never seen before. When consumers had to explore other opportunities to fill their kitchen pantry, many found local solutions. As a result, this newly educated consumer now sees the importance of supporting local.
We are also seeing innovations and opportunities with specialty certifications for CPG products, and we believe that many of these will be longstanding. Certified Organic is here to stay, and NY Grown and Certified is continuing to gain traction giving consumers the ability to spot local products in stores.
Some interesting emerging certifications like Certified Upcycled and Regenerative Organic Certified are gaining popularity but have not quite tipped the scales in a way that makes consumers seek them out as they do with Certified Organic. Consumers have started to pay attention to certifications like these because they align with their own values, such as supporting locally produced products and supporting environmental and sustainability efforts.
Featuring these certifications on your packaging is an opportunity to enhance your brand story and deepen the value consumers see in your products.
In the agtech sector, farmers have an opportunity to leverage agtech to boost on-farm efficiency. In some cases, agtech may be in reference to automation and robotics, but we’re seeing agtech innovation in other areas too.
One of our clients, Norwhey Brewing, founded by Cornell professor Dr. Sam Alcaine and his co-founder Trystan Sandvoss (formerly of First Light Farm Creamery), created a hard seltzer from whey, a byproduct of yogurt production. This is an innovation in dairy fermentation and upcycling that doesn’t involve robotics.
Another client with a Cornell connection providing an innovative agtech solution is Ascribe Bioscience. The company discovered a way to isolate a microbiome in soil and turn it into an affordable biopesticide, saving farmers money while boosting soil health.
Just being here in Upstate New York is its own opportunity. We’re fortunate to have Cornell University leading major innovation in agtech and other areas of agriculture. We’re also fortunate to have the international food and agriculture competition, Grow-NY. Following the competition is a great way to stay on top of agtech innovations that could benefit our local farms. Grow-NY is always seeking regional ecosystem partners, including pilot farms for the annual finalists to connect with. Learn more about Grow-NY at www.grow-ny.com.
Lastly, I want to touch on the opportunity farmers have in agritourism – bridging on-farm experiences with education. This connects back to consumer demand because an educated consumer makes more intentional choices.
New York State has rich agricultural stories that fold well into the thriving tourism industry in our state. Agritourism can also be an additional revenue stream for farmers. From cow petting to goat yoga and glamping to corn mazes and u-pick operations – consider how you can build on-farm experiences that educate our community on the importance of farming and agriculture.
We have an opportunity to remind consumers why these industries are so important, and in doing so, we impact buying behaviors and elevate the industry as a whole.
Learn more about New York Farm Bureau at www.nyfb.org.