Agribusiness is North Carolina’s number one industry with $103 billion in annual contributions to our state’s economy. I was able to attend the NC Chamber’s annual Ag Allies Conference along with several of my Golden LEAF colleagues to hear about the most pressing challenges, biggest successes, and what’s next for the agribusiness industry. We joined hundreds of producers, industry officials, and supporters of the industry to help support what’s next in agribusiness.
This year the conference included its first ever women in agriculture breakfast. The breakfast featured a conversation among women in agriculture: a current NC State student in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the president of EnviroFlight, a lobbyist with VV Insights, and the moderator from NC Farm Bureau. The conversation focused around how to support women in agribusiness.
The Chief Agriculture Economist for Wells Fargo provided the economic outlook for agriculture on a global scale. We heard insights on the current economic landscape of agriculture on both domestic and international fronts, as well as short-term and long-term trends. The presentation included the effects of higher interest rates and the 2023 Farm Bill. Takeaways included that this economist does not see a recession in the near future, the percentage of food inflation is going back down from an all-time high in 2022, and food is now more available, fresh, safe, and convenient than ever before.
Executive Director of the Food Innovation Lab Bill Aimutis moderated a panel on the Future of Food. The CEO of Believer Meats, the CEO of Verdesian, and the President of EnviroFlight talked about what is steering the evolution of food. The conversation focused around the influence of the consumer. Takeaways included that the food production is a result of the diverse population of consumers and that consumers want options such as meat substitutes and exotic ingredients. Also, consumers are more aware than ever of safe food production and ingredients.
The keynote presentation came from Aidan Connolly, President, AgriTech Capital, based in Wilmington. He presented the staggering numbers of needing 70% more food and protein by 2050. He added that the world’s population has nearly doubled since 1970 and is headed toward 10 billion by 2050. Each year, the world’s farmers must feed 80 million additional people. Connolly proposed that AgTech can help solve the problems of agriculture. Takeaways include that there are issues associated with AgTech such as the investment in AgTech is significant and start-ups focused on AgTech need to look at the end benefit in mind when creating technology instead of just creating great technology. Connolly also proposed that the farmers who will stay in business are the ones who embrace technology the fastest.
The Ag Allies Conference always provides us with a look at current conditions as well as a glimpse into the future. I know the future is bright for agriculture and agribusiness because North Carolinians will fight to keep this industry number one. We will look for the solutions to the challenges and we will work to build and share successes. Golden LEAF is proud to support this industry and help build its future.