Where: What location(s) does the agribusiness operate in? Does this location enable and constrain us? Where are our markets? Where are our suppliers?
How: How do we produce our product? What values underpin it? What business model do we use?
What: What do we produce? Are we producing something that our customers need or want?
Who: Who are we and what do we stand for? What are our values? Who are our customers? What do they stand for? If we can match our values and needs with our customers’ values and needs or wants, we’re onto a real winner from a business sustainability point of view.
Therefore, the who, how, what and where are really our ‘matters for management’ if you like, the things that managers can influence in order to achieve their business goals and purpose – their ‘why’.
There are a range of ‘tools’ or mechanisms that we can use to have an influence or make change in each of our ‘matters for management’. These include:
Technology: new practices and technologies that improve efficiency, effectiveness or just enable things to be done that couldn’t be done before.
Innovation: introducing something new; making changes that can be both ‘radical’ and ‘incremental’. Here, economists like to add the concept that innovation must lead to added social and/or economic value. Thomas Edison is attributed with the quote: “The electric light didn’t come from the continuous improvement of candles” and this encapsulates the concept that innovation is more than just continuous improvement – it’s about generating ideas, testing or prototyping them, doing trialls and redesigning things (product features or processes, for example), and seeing if they have commercial and/or social value.
Human capacity building: through education and training, supporting people and helping them apply their skills and knowledge against clear goals – i.e. to align their skills and interests to the outcomes you and/or they want to achieve.
Making decisions based on evidence: Identifying what data you need and how that needs to be analysed in order to enable you to make good decisions.
Financing: attracting investment capital and enabling financing of business operations and capital improvements.
Marketing and Communications: clarifying messages so that the message sent and the message received is the same.
Modifying growing conditions: for example, irrigation, closed-environment agriculture like glasshouses.
Modifying soil: for example, adding nutrients, soil conditioners, biomass.
Controlling pests and diseases: which products and processes will you use and how will this relate to your business goals, values and marketing messages.
These are all things that you need to know as a manager in the agribusiness world, to achieve your goals and/or those of your business partners, shareholders and investors. Every unit in your Associate Degree in Agribusiness is focused on equipping you with the skills you will need to manage all of the variables that operating an agribusiness will throw at you.
In the first year, the Associate Degree will focus on more of the business management aspects. In year 2 you will focus more on the agronomic aspects of production management. But in all cases, what I’d like to emphasise here is that agribusiness management is essentially focussed on how innovation, science and technology help agribusinesses to find their niche and ultimately survive and thrive in often challenging climatic, biological, political and social settings.
Successful agribusiness managers will recognise the peculiarities of the agribusiness context and put in place measures to make allowances for those challenges. In agribusiness, management is always about being proactive, not reactive to those peculiarities of the environment within which we operate.