Agribusiness Management ZAB 101

The course outline for Agribusiness Management Unit states that we will:

Introduce the field of agribusiness and the management of agribusinesses, with a particular focus on small to medium enterprises.

Explain why and how businesses are typically managed, emphasising the specific context of agribusinesses where biological processes underpin production systems and managers grapple with uncertainties such as weather, markets and exchange rates.

Explore the external environment in which agribusinesses operate, how managers make and communicate decisions and how contemporary challenges such as food safety and traceability, sustainability and ethics are incorporated into agribusiness management.

In this introductory lecture, in what is essentially the introductory Unit to the whole Agribusiness Associate Degree, we’re going to start by:

Defining ‘agribusiness’

Defining ‘management’ in an agribusiness context. These are the things that you, as agribusiness managers will need to hone your knowledge and skills in.

Over the next few weeks, we will drill down into the theory and practice of management, all the time referring to the characteristics that make management in an agribusiness context different to managing businesses in other contexts.

But before we get into that detail, I think it will be really useful for you moving through this Unit, and the rest of the Agribusiness Associate Degree, if you can get your head around the idea of management, in an agribusiness context, of being OUTCOMES oriented and purposeful: it’s not just something you do for the hell of it.

I think it’s useful to look at it through a simple ‘why, who, what, where, how’ filter. Let’s think of it as a target:

Our ‘why’, right there in the middle as the target is our business goals and purpose. These may be financial goals, but often they’re also about lifestyle and doing something that you’re passionate about and interested in.

Management, then, is about dealing with the challenges and opportunities that that business environment presents us with, so that we can achieve the objectives of the business. Agribusiness management is about the things that we can make decisions about in the context of where we operate, what we produce, how we produce it and who to.

Where: What location(s) does the agribusiness operate? 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 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, 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; which is often defined as introducing something new; and these changes can be both ‘radical’ and ‘incremental’. But 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, prototyping them, trialling, re-designing 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 your need and how that needs to be analysed in order to enable you to make good decisions.

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 and that

Modifying growing conditions (irrigation, closed-environment agriculture like glasshouses, etc.)

Modifying soil (adding nutrients, elements, soil conditioners, biomass, etc)

Controlling pests and diseases

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 cased, 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 to 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.

So, how is this Unit designed and delivered?

This Unit is designed to allow you zoom in and out of the agribusiness world, encouraging you to think broadly about the local, State, National and International trends and influences on agribusiness. There will be video stories about different agribusinesses, some in Tasmania, some from elsewhere. We will also be using examples from the broader business world, to give you insight into the fact that whilst agribusinesses have their own peculiarities, they are businesses too and there is a lot we can learn from the broader business world.

Throughout these first few lectures, you will hear a little bit from me, then you will go off and watch some videos and do some reading, then you will come back again to listen to me as we delve deeper into the topics.

Each time I ask you to watch a video or do the readings, I’ll be asking you some fairly broad questions for you to reflect upon and think about while you’re watching and reading. to do some thinking and jotting down of notes in the Reflection section of your ePortfolio.

The particular topics we are going to discuss in the first two weeks of this subject are:

Week 1

1. The ‘operating environment’ of agribusiness

2. Business purpose and goals

Week 2

3. Business structure

4. Business organisational design.

So it’s time to get started!

Credits:

Created with images by 3dman_eu - "cows curious cattle" • Bergadder - "bale straw agriculture" • skeeze - "fresh peppers farmers market open air" • StateofIsrael - "Agriculture" • Hans - "short disc harrow harrow short slices" • StateofIsrael - "Agriculture"

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