This month we’re hosting our annual event – newly renamed this year as Unconventional Ag, and formerly known as the Organic & Non-GMO Forum. It will be held Nov. 29-30 in Minneapolis. The two-day conference brings together farmers, grain handlers, processors, food marketers, equipment and technology providers, and others along the agricultural-supply chain. Discussions will ensue on specialty oilseed, grain, vegetable oil, and plant-protein production alongside trade and processing, as well as the latest on regenerative-, organic- and sustainable-agriculture methods.
“This is a great conference in that, over the years it has continued to evolve as the market needs evolved,” said Peter Golbitz, co-chair of Unconventional Ag. “It was started as the Organic & Non-GMO Forum to focus on specialty-grain opportunities for producers, and also to help stimulate the interest among grain handlers and processors to be looking for and supporting this value-added opportunity for farmers by paying higher premiums for organic and (non-genetically modified).
“As the market has evolved, and those markets have stabilized, the increased use of soybeans, legumes and other crops directly as human food and new plant-based alternatives also began to pick up steam. We’ve certainly seen the plant-based ‘milk” market evolve very quickly over the past 10 years, and in the past three or four years, plant-based ‘meat’ alternatives have also exploded. That’s created a lot of opportunities for food processors because as consumers see these products and get these products, there’s a pull from the marketplace for processors to make these. We’re definitely seeing a market shift, such as seeing higher demand for oats, pea and for non-GMO soy, for example, as a result of that.
“Unconventional Ag is about opportunities outside of just conventional ag, which we know as corn, soybean and wheat crops – and mainly grown for commodity markets. But if you want to add additional value to your operation, as a farmer or as a food processor, you need to step into some of the newer-emerging areas where consumers are willing to pay more.
“This year we are adding a couple of specific focuses on plant-based products and fermentation. And while precision fermentation is not agriculture, per se, it is a new wave of agriculture in that we are growing organisms and proteins in fermentation vats. Whether or not you see that as agriculture, the reality is that it will compete with conventional agriculture. So it’s important to explore those, it’s important for people to understand what it’s all about and why that market exists, as well as how these products are made. It’s especially important to understand if this is an opportunity for me or potentially a threat for me in some areas. It’s an interesting mix.
“At Unconventional Ag, we really want to bring together producer discussions, processor discussions, consumer needs, and consumer trends. I think it’s the only conference where food and ag crossover; it’s kind of a hybrid event. It isn’t just about precision agriculture or just about food marketing, but it’s a way of touching the middle of the market where everything needs to happen, in terms of pulling levers for more demand and pulling levers for responding to consumer demand for food products.
“(The main goal of the convention) is to bring together the disparate parts of the value chain, right from the producer, right to the food processor. That also requires a look at the ultimate consumer. It brings those together to help facilitate the exchange, the networking, that development of that market, and to build it up and give it some strength.”
Visit www.unconventionalag.com for more info.