For the last few years I believe we have ripped into the beginning of each new year with a fairly clear view of what lies in front of us and some relatively easy predictions. But 2019 is different.
I am writing this from my hotel room in Norwich, England. A stunning city that is well worth a visit if you like old cutesy stuff. I am on my way home from attending Fruit Logistic 2019 in Berlin, and visiting a couple of key suppliers (Sinclair and Proseal). Fruit Logistica was a good place to consolidate my thinking around 2019 and what things might look like for our industry this year. For the last few years the major trade shows have pushed our thinking and shown us a lot of innovation that has helped us shape a vision of what horticulture 2020 or 2025 might look like. But it seems to have stalled.
While we are still seeing innovation, it is not the step changes we have seen previously. My thoughts on this are that everyone is taking a deep breath. While we don’t quite have everything we need to turn the lights out just yet, we have had a lot of clever stuff put in front of us in the last 36 months and I think the industry is pausing for a moment. Pausing to consolidate thinking, put some polish on their technologies and make sure they are fit for purpose and do what they say they will do. While a little piece of me was disappointed that there was no new strawberry picking drones or biodome to put over apricot orchards to ensure the best possible yield and flavour every year, I was mainly quietly comforted.
An industry that is frantically pumping out innovation without due care and the finesse it takes to get things 'just right' is not really going to optimise its outcomes. If we pause for a moment we can catch our breath and make better decisions about what options are right for us and our application. Last year so many of our customers didn’t know which way to face and which technology was right for them. They knew they had to do something, but what?
2019 is going to be the year of decision making. The year of pragmatic, well thought out and medium term planning. The year of scheduling in sensible CAPEX for the next five years and painting a vision of what 2025 looks like in your world, relevant to your size and context - not what the brochures tell you works well in the US or Italy.
Make the most of the reduced noise, hunker down, make decisions you are comfortable with (but not too comfortable!) and focus on the medium and long term. This is where the rubber hits the road.