Friday, November 23, 2007

What's the opposite of nimble?...

Luckily Cargill is in the business of grain trading - which is dominated by a few humongous and equally introverted global firms like ADM and Bunge (which account for 90% of global grain trade).

Don't get me wrong - I admire all these firms, but as an industrial group they are laughable in their adoption of information technology as it appears to farmers. Keep in mind we are their suppliers, not their customers (which, strangely, their PR departments seem intent on confusing), and they have zero motivation to give a hoot what I think.

But if any of these companies were in a technologically-driven industry like say, telecommunications - they would be blown out of the water faster than

In fairness, the vast majority of farmers loudly assert they don't crave updates and new-fangled commerce. Yeah - right up until they get an LDP in 17 hours via e-LDP, or they sell grain during evening trade and hit the market peak. Or they get their money within hours of dumping their grain - and they get it correctly.

But (and you may be wondering) I do have a point and some actual news. Cargill [Full disclosure: my #1 customer] has announced their new website.

Don't hold your breath. By the time Cargill's IT bureaucracy finishes tweaking it, I could be on Medicare. Deep Throat-like sources (you can waterboard me - I'll never tell) at Cargill have been promising me on-line account access and management for - oh, about 18 months now.

Color me underwhelmed.

To be fair (not an easy thing for me), I have also had a chance to see some screenshots of the account management capabilities. And I did drool. For those of us on the road, the potential was mildly arousing. Think about seeing what the last load tested while back on your combine minutes after it dumped at the terminal. For that matter, the time stamp would give you a good idea of turnaround times for your hauling.

Now imagine not having to rely on days-old data to see if your contracts had been filled and payment sent. [I detest having to ask for payment!] Or writing a contract at 11 pm. in your Star Trek jammies.

This is how commerce works for the rest of the real world. The enormous resources of Cargill (or their competitors) should realize the powerful attraction of instantaneous business and if they can't get it done in-house, hire India.

My hunch is that agriculture - especially the industrial grain sector - is undergoing far more consolidation than many realize. Those tiny few at the top will command a vast bulk of the trade, and expect the same type of commerce tempo as we get from Amazon or Verizon or Google.

Namely: right now and perfect. Cargill, et al, have nothing to fear unless someone actually takes that desire seriously.

[Return to AgWeb]

No comments: