From The President

Productive Meetings Drive Our Progress

By Brent Kemp, AgGateway President and CEO

From its founding in 2005, AgGateway’s operations leaned heavily to the virtual environment, making as much use from teleconferences as possible. Those group telephone calls gave way to online meetings in the early 2010’s, and by 2019 almost all committee, council, and administrative sessions in any given year were remotely attended.

So, it’s no surprise that AgGateway member volunteers readily adapted to the GoTo Meeting/Teams/WebEx/Zoom environment of the coronavirus pandemic when the world began to shut down for in-person meetings in March 2020 -- we already possessed the skills and toolsets for success.

That said, we’ve always recognized that in-person meetings are most effective for certain kinds of activities: networking, digging to the root of business problems, and driving solutions to consensus. These require conversations, interactions, and interpersonal exchanges that even the best Zoom Room can’t duplicate. So, the return of the AgGateway in-person Mid-Year Meeting last month highlighted their importance once again.

In Europe, presentations focused on farm and farmer data. In Latin America, discussions on prioritizing pain points in carbon, climate, and water management will lead to future working groups. And in North America, three days of in-person sessions included spirited debate on data connecting the supply chain to field operations; new message implementation for fertilizer use cases; implementing unique identification for crop protection products; teasing out stakeholders for feed, grain, and animal nutrition use cases; and much more.

It’s not that we couldn’t have had similar success in a virtual-only environment. Rather, the in-person environment is particularly well-suited to building the relationships needed for trust to form, and trust is required for developing truly industry-supported and implemented digital resources.

As we look towards challenges that face our industry, including the need for data ethics and stewardship that cross traditional boundaries of supply chain, field operations, or food processing, we must continue to build our virtual and in-person meeting skills. AgGateway and its members are viewed as leaders in this space, bringing peers and competitors together in an antitrust-compliant way to address those challenges. As a U.S. Coast Guard Captain of my acquaintance says, “leadership requires that we have hard conversations and, even though our opinions differ, find the common ground enabling us to build solutions.” I can say with certainty that we don’t shy away from hard conversations, and that there will be more coming our way.

Informed conversations will always welcome different perspectives, new participants, and other stakeholders to the table. Your recommendations as members give weight to those parties whether they are a non-member considering joining AgGateway or a potential volunteer getting involved in a working group for the first time. The staff and I are all ready to support you as you make those invitations and engage those new volunteers.

We have a full slate of virtual Meet-Ups and face-to-face meetings already on the calendar as a result of our Mid-Year efforts in June. There are places to plug in and contribute, even as you develop those professional meeting leadership and facilitation “muscles.” I look forward to our conversations in the months ahead as we build relationships and resources to drive digital agriculture.