February 18, 2022

DrKohl_color The Ag Globe Trotter

Dr. Dave M. Kohl

Welcome to the weekly edition of The Ag Globe Trotter by Dr. Dave Kohl.

A special assignment brought some outside and inside the box thinking concerning the adoption of technology and innovation. The Foundation of Arable Research (FAR) Maize Conference was being held in the height of summer in New Zealand. Temperatures were in the low 30s in Celsius, which is around 90°F. They requested that I provide some nuggets of information concerning the implementation of technology and innovation to their group of growers. Here are some of the points and perspectives that I presented virtually to this very engaged group, who were 13 hours ahead of the Eastern time zone. 

The 5% Rule 

The 5% rule was coined by my good friend Dr. Danny Klinefelter, Professor Emeritus of Agriculture Economics at Texas A&M and the founder of TEPAP (The Executive Program for Agricultural Producers) which is a stellar learning experience for agriculture management. This principle shows that outstanding agribusinesses are 5% better in many areas of business in relation to their peers. This could be 5% better in production, operational efficiency, marketing, risk management or human resource management. 

Incremental approach 

The incremental approach, often followed by successful athletes or athletic teams, is attempting to get a little bit better each day or over a specific time period. Producers using this approach pay close attention to strategy, but are also good at execution and monitoring results. 

Sweat the small stuff 

Sweating the small stuff requires team members that have a mind for detail. It is important to ensure that the right team culture is in place because this strategy can be seen as overbearing or irritating to some people.  

Human resource horsepower 

Hiring and retaining productive people is and has always been a critical part of operating a successful business. Having the right people on your team that can adapt to new and changing technology will be critical for success down the road.  

Efficiency before growth 

Technology and innovation must focus on efficiencies first, then be utilized for growth in the business down the road. Get better before getting bigger!


Success in the future will require the use of advisory teams. From crop and livestock consultants to business coaches and agricultural lenders, they can all be in the position to bring the power of an outside perspective to super-charge the results of change.  


Sometimes service providers or other outside resources will have an edu-marketing strategy. This is where a company educates and provides knowledge in their marketing strategy. Successful producers implementing technology and innovation in their business will take advantage of these resources.  

NexGen productivity

Finally, the next generation will use technology not only to reduce costs, but to also boost productivity. Remember, productivity separates the great from the good.  






Dr. Kohl is Professor Emeritus of Agricultural Finance and Small Business Management and Entrepreneurship in the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Dr. Kohl has traveled over 8 million miles throughout his professional career and has conducted more than 6,000 workshops and seminars for agricultural groups such as bankers, Farm Credit, FSA and regulators, as well as producer and agribusiness groups. He has published four books and over 1,300 articles on financial and business-related topics in journals, extension and other popular publications.

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