When we talk about agriculture, we are talking about a world that embraces a multitude of activities, themes, and aspects: from seeds to livestock, from energy to biodiversity, through food security up to climate change. A complex world full of key players: governments, category associations, public opinion, entire supply chains and the international community.
Communicating everything that agriculture represents is not easy, and it is becoming increasingly important to clarify all the aspects involved in this essential world for the future of the planet and its sustenance, to generate continuous information, exchange, sharing and inclusion, for everyone’s benefit.
What perception do people have of agriculture today? How do they relate to it? What do they think about the problems related to climate change and the agricultural sector? Do they have a clear understanding of what is happening in this sector? And the farmers themselves, what role do they have in all this?
These are the issues addressed by international experts and guests in the eighth and final episode of Global Trends, the BKT format dedicated to macro-themes and trends that influence world agriculture.
First of all, marketing and communication are not just simply two disciplines devoted to the promotion of products, but concern the need to be credible, trustworthy and competent. Their purpose is also to share information and knowledge, involve and help their audience make decisions, through clarity, simplicity and sincerity.
However, communicating agriculture is a challenging activity given the numerous themes, aspects and protagonists.
“The public image of agriculture is still very stereotyped, unchanging for at least 50, 70 or maybe 100 years,” commented Poran Molani, head of Sir Martin Sorrell’s S4 Capital in India. “I believe most people think of agriculture as a very conservative sector, slow to change, disconnected from the needs of modern consumers. In reality, this industry involves incredible skills, competencies and technologies. Modern food producers need to know much more than just agriculture: think of economics, science, law, mechanics, geology, analysis, chemistry, biology, not to mention ecology and conservation, all combined with years of wisdom and knowledge passed down. It is necessary to highlight and communicate all this talent to the general public, also in order to attract fresh talent.”
“It’s a difficult world to communicate,” continues Poran Molani, “because there is not a single message. There is the industry as a whole of course, but inside it there are the individual components – food, livestock, energy, materials, fishing, biodiversity, etc. But we need to take matters into our own hands and address all the key issues by explaining their realities to the different audiences involved: what can be done, what we need, etc. And above all, agriculture must stop reacting to questions and being defensive, it must proactively generate dialogue.”
Owen Roberts, professor of agricultural communication at the University of Illinois, talks about ‘knowlegde mobilization’. It is a concept that involves the exchange of knowledge between researchers, farmers and journalists who communicate with each other, sharing their feedback and generating dialogue and innovation.
“In this, social media is ideal for us because it takes research out of the lab and out of the field. It’s an opportunity for dialogue between users and information providers,” continues Owen Roberts. “In North America, many farmers use social media to exchange information, it is accessible to everyone and allows them to freely express doubts and concerns while receiving immediate feedback. Researchers, scientists and farmers ‘meet’ thanks to social media. I would say that the responsibility for sharing information lies with those who have that knowledge.”
A particular point of view on technology in agriculture is that provided by Riccardo de Nadai, Communication Manager at XFarm, an agro-tech start-up that helps farmers manage their companies in a simple and digital way. Their target audience is made up of farmers of different generations. “The main strategies we have found are based on education. It is crucial to raise awareness among farmers about the use of technology and about how smart agriculture can improve their everyday work. To achieve this goal, we are working on the creation of various educational programs, such as for example xFarm Education, a project in which we go to schools to explain the main trends in digital agriculture to young students. And of course social media is very important. Good communication of the benefits of using technology is key to increasing its adoption and success.”
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Finally, in addition to the use of different communication tools, we also need increasingly innovative and unconventional approaches. Jennifer Rauch, Digital Marketing Manager at BKT Europe, commented: “That’s what we have done with the episodes of Global Trends. We wanted to find an innovative marketing approach that involved people, users. To create a community that deals with agriculture and not just our tires.”
“The particular aspect of those who work in agriculture is that this is not only their business but their way of life. We want to enter their daily lives and every BKT initiative is designed to bring us closer to people, involving them more and more and creating experiences,” Jennifer Rauch goes on. “We want to give them a voice and at the same time to be a voice to help communities. We also want to build lasting relationships with groups and organizations in the sector, and an initiative such as Global Trends achieves this perfectly. It is our duty as a brand to start the dialogue, to encourage the exchange of information, research. Of course, we won’t stop here and we will start new initiatives.”