By Aiden Connolly
A short history of Agriculture
The agriculture industry is tried and true. From humans first ventures into farming, just 9,000 years ago, the industry has done things the same way for hundreds of years, family farms passing knowledge from generation to generation. Agriculture’s ability to innovate has been limited by the scarcity of data; even as the industrial revolution brought fertiliser, the green revolution brought irrigation and genetic selection has improved performance, the challenge is to measure performance improvements when variations caused by climate, soils and management are so great.
The number of people directly involved in agriculture and food production has significantly decreased all over the world, including the US. In the late 18th century, about 90% of Americans were involved in farming. Today, it’s about 2.5%. Even in China, where 35% of the population farm, the middle class is increasing in size and people are moving off the land and into cities and urban areas.
Clearly consumers are more and more removed from food production, creating a gap in understanding and knowledge with respect the business of agriculture and food. As a result, a myriad of challenges have ensued.
What challenges does agriculture face?
An Industry Misunderstood
The realm of food and agriculture is replete with misconceptions or even ignorance about how food is produced, where it comes from, what labels mean, etc. The lack of education on the part of the consumer causes a great deal of strife for the agriculture industry. Unfortunately, by the nature of being fragmented the industry has an uphill battle.
Animals start on one farm and often change hands at least once if not more before heading to a processing facility, a packaging facility, grocer or supermarket, to finally being purchased by the consumer. With some species, such as cattle, multiple actors are involved in their transfer and this can make tracking individual animals particularly difficult. This is another factor disconnecting producers from consumers.
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Barcelona, October 2018.
Is there any way to reduce the great distance that currently exists between professional market research services and startups?
It was a while since I wrote an article, and this is because I only write when I have the feeling that I have seen things from another point of view or learned something. And that’s what happened to me the other day at the ESOMAR Research Rally Barcelona 2018, held at the headquarters of Barcelona Activa (Spain). I left with the batteries charged and eager to do things.
The event consisted in bringing together 6 startups with market researchers, through a one-day marathon session, who had to use market research techniques to solve startup challenges. Startups were paired with market researchers, and they worked together to identify business issues and how to overcome them.
Beyond the stimulation of the practical and participatory nature of the event, and the presence of researchers from different countries, what I found most inspiring was the contact with startups. And to see a possible way to have a relevant and viable relationship with startups at the level of market research.
Contact with startups is always stimulating for me, probably because the entrepreneurial profile of startups is usually consisted of young people, very educated, without any prejudice or complexity, and who are eager to take charge of the world!
But having said that, in addition, the event was concluded with a positive and hopeful feeling about the relationship between traditional market research and disruptive startups.
On a previous occasion it was not like that. That time I had to give a talk about market research to Master’s students on entrepreneurship in startups. But, at that time my conclusions were quite hopeless, since upon preparing the talk I had discovered that startups do not hire market researchers, but they do it themselves, without any kind of expert tutelage, using the Lean Startup system. The system can be summarized as: launching and implementing your intuition (since the cost of launching a mobile application is usually nil) and the market will tell you if you’re on the right track or not anyways. (https://victoriascarpato.com/2016/04/18/investigacion-de-mercados-en-startups-spin-of-y-empresas-innovadoras-y-de-base-tecnologica/ ).
On the contrary, this time I discovered a way to present market research in an attractive and affordable way for startups. Not only affordable at the cost level, which is the main reason why startups do not hire market researchers. In addition to the level of time spent and the involvement of startups-elements that seem absolutely essentials.
How to do it?:
1) Do not go with the budget in mind. Startups do not usually have a market research department, they also do not like to interact with people who are just simply there to maintain a consultative and commercial relationship with them. They look for partners who feel part of the project and to form a relationship at a deeper level than we usually establish with the companies we advise. We must become part of the project.
On the other hand, in order to reduce the initial costs, we could “bet” on the startup, as do the business angels (investors who provide financing and / or experience to startups in order to obtain a future profit), and receive our economic retribution a posteriori, via shares of stock of the startup or receiving a percentage of the future income of the startup.
2) Distribute the research tasks. Where I really noticed that market researchers provided invaluable help to startups, it was at the moment of helping them to propose research, that is, to help them discover relevant questions, problems, and challenges they had to solve through market research. And, secondly, logically, raising the questions correctly.
But on the other hand, the fieldwork and free platforms (from the well-known SurveyMonkey for quantitative surveys, to Skype for interviews or qualitative groups) are perhaps something that startups could undertake themselves. The researcher would only supervise parts of the fieldwork and then, logically, help them in interpreting the results. I see the risk, but I think you can try.
3) To diminish importance to the sample size: the clients to which we are accustomed to treat from the professional markets research, always demand to us high indices of confidence of the data. But how many times have we had the feeling that our clients seem more interested in covering their backs (having a report that supports their decision making) than not wanting to learn new things or rethink the foundations of their business model? However, for startup drivers, the confidence index does not seem to worry them that much. They use research simply as another indicator, but they pay more attention to their intuition and their way of seeing their company than to the results. The results inspire them, they do not determine their strategies.
Finally, the contact with the startups gave me another learning, but this time, in relation to the way to face the challenges. Something we can apply in our day-to-day work: don’t give things too many laps, launch and try ideas, accepting a certain index of uncertainty, and then, we will make changes if necessary. It seems a good way of reinventing yourself every day, don’t you think?
Victoria Scarpato Bravo
Qualitative market researcher and planner freelance from Barcelona (Spain)
Tel: (0034) 691 303 171
Over the years, ESOMAR has become a strong supporter of young professionals and their ideas. To encourage industry involvement and sharing, the Young ESOMAR Society (or YES!) was launched and with it, the YES Award. At this year’s Congress in Berlin we were thrilled to have 5 brilliant finalists from around the globe, all as first-time speakers and most as first-time delegates – thanks again to Research Now SSI for sponsoring their attendance! They pitched their best and brightest. They did an amazing job. And one decided to write about their experience. As YES Coordinator, and organizer of the pitch competition, we are happy to introduce Emily Ozer, from System1 Research, on her adventure at ESOMAR Congress…
This year, I was given the wonderful opportunity to attend my first industry conference – the ESOMAR Congress 2018. Now that those three jam packed, inspiring days have come to an end, it’s time to reflect and share what I consider the best things about attending ESOMAR Congress.
A NEW POINT OF VIEW
One of the things I loved most about this conference was how it opened my eyes to so many different perspectives. ESOMAR attendees are not only from all different corners of the research world – quantitative, qualitative, vendor side, client side – but from all different corners of the globe. Every day, you’re being taught about new innovative methods of gaining insights from consumers, while also learning about the unique contexts and climates in which other researchers work, and the different challenges each market faces. You’re hearing directly from clients about how their companies search for insights and use them to improve their business. As someone who has only ever been on the vendor side, it was fascinating to hear the ways our work is woven into the decision making of companies that affect the lives of consumers every day.
Another thing to love about ESOMAR! There’s something so exhilarating about attending a talk that captures your attention and makes you think, and actually having the opportunity to seek that person out later on in the day, tell them how much you enjoyed it, and engage them in discussion. It’s just not something you get from TED talks and webinars online. I admit that, as a first time attendee and someone relatively new to the industry, I was too nervous to approach many of the speakers I wanted to chat with, but I certainly won’t be letting nerves get in the way next time! It’s too big of an opportunity to pass up when you have so many brilliant people all in one room at your disposal.
No reflection on ESOMAR is complete without a mention of the party! Who would have thought market researchers could be such a wild bunch! 🙂 But in all seriousness, the party is a great place to let your guard down and get to know the people behind the research in a more casual setting. No sales pitches, no exchanging of business cards, just genuine connection over a beer.
I left ESOMAR Congress with an overwhelming feeling of togetherness and closeness with the insights community. This feeling that, even though so many of us in attendance were competitors, we’re all working together towards this larger goal of understanding humanity a little bit better. That may be the best thing about ESOMAR. It’s about learning from others’ brilliance and letting your eyes be opened to new ways of thinking. It’s not about one-upping each other, about competing for clients’ attention, or even about winning new business. It’s simply about education and knowledge sharing.
This list only begins to scratch the surface of all the ways attending a conference like ESOMAR Congress 2018 can bring value and meaning to your career. I’m thankful for having had this opportunity to attend, and can only hope I’ll be back this time next year sharing my experiences from Congress 2019! See you in Edinburgh!
Thanks to the ESOMAR team for putting together a wonderful program and pulling off a spectacular Congress! Special thanks to Danika and the YES team for believing in my pitch and giving me a platform to share, and to System1 Research for all the support.
Sound like fun? Feel like being a part of the community? Or know someone who would? Be sure to check out the YES website and get yourself and/or colleagues 35 and under involved! Speaking, competing, programme committees, becoming published…it’s all possible with YES!
By Finn Raben
Over the weekend the New York Times and Observer newspapers reported that data mining and analysis company Cambridge Analytica, a company that had been employed with considerable success by Donald Trump in the 2016 US presidential campaign, had illegally harvested 50 million Facebook profiles in order to build a powerful software program to predict and influence choices at the ballot box. The Observer reports that data was collected via a digital app on the Facebook platform where hundreds of thousands of users were paid to take a personality test and agreed to have their data collected for academic use. However, the app also collected the information of the test-takers’ Facebook friends.