How do you make farming and agribusiness sexy enough for millennials? Technology, transparency, and a willingness to transform an old-fashioned image.
Growing up in ag—the agriculture industry—means your perception of how a workday goes is vastly different from a regular nine-to-five gig.
First, nearly every day is a workday. You wake up at four and work all day until things are done. Work ethic is everything in an industry where the precedent used to be working harder, not smarter.
Farming used to be a family business. But with fewer kids going from high school to the farm and the average age of a farmer today reaching over 60, new blood is needed in the industry.
How do you recruit tech-savvy millennials to a business that is not well-known for innovation or young workers? You rebrand.
“This isn’t your granddaddy’s agribusiness,” Hoff said. “We’re not rebranding our product, we’re rebranding the industry.”
The California almond grower, huller, and processor is relying on its lean and mean, technologically advanced approach to farming, as well as its industry-leading transparency and honesty, to move away from the old-fashioned stigma that weighs down farming.
TECHNOLOGYAlmonds are a major long-term investment. It takes about five years to get them into production, and because of the capital required to develop an orchard, farmers aim to get up to 25 years of good crops. Today, Monte Vista Farming gets more out of its crops on its processing floor by staying ahead of the technological curve.
From electronic sorting—that is more efficient than the human eye at catching irregularities—to robotics, technology is improving the quality of the company’s products and the safety of its employees.
Monte Vista’s custom software helps streamline its operations and has introduced a level of visibility all stakeholders appreciate. The agribusiness and its leaders can make better decisions based on how the market is going, while a higher level of traceability provides heightened transparency all the way down the line to the consumer.
“Our motto with respect to tech and software is that if we’re doing things right we’ll never be done,” Hoff shared. “We’re always improving and investing in it. It’s something that our people find exciting. Anyone on the team can have input into where we go next.”
This level of technological innovation in an industry assumed to be old fashioned has helped attract younger workers to agribusiness, including savvy MBA professionals.
TRANSPARENCYTechnology is incredibly important to operations, but isn’t the end-all-be-all when its comes to success. For Monte Vista, transparency is the key.
In other companies, growers sell their produce to an agribusiness that will package, market, and sell their product. That company will make all of the decisions on which crops go where, with no input from the grower.
But Monte Vista took a different approach. The company established the grower select marketing strategy in 1985. Unlike trade processing, all grower’s produce is kept physically separate so that each grower can participate in marketing their own crop.
“It’s a flexible model. If growers need cash flow earlier than anticipated, they can tell us to move their product,” Hoff explained.
While this model started out as uniquely Monte Vista, others in the industry have picked up on the model. No one else does it to the extent Monte Vista does, however.
“It has always seemed like there’s been a veil between the producers and end users,” he continued. “Like companies purposely wanted to keep information from consumers and have control over everything. We think that’s backwards.
“Our job is to create value. If we can do that by being transparent, then we’ll do that.”
Eighteen percent of Monte Vista’s almonds are purchased by Japan, a country that covets high-quality produce. But supply has always been an issue. How do they know if they are getting the highest quality available?
Hoff, when meeting with overseas buyers, takes his growers with him. They tour facilities, shake hands, and learn about what each business needs, and the quality that is expected.
“In agribusiness this isn’t done, it’s actually shunned,” Hoff said. “Most producers don’t want their growers to know what their customers are paying. But if the customer needs this level of reassurance, we’re going to provide it for them.”
This thoughtful approach to agribusiness also extends to how Monte Vista cultivates the land. Sustainable farming practices, targeted use of fertilizer and pesticides, water flow meters, and bee forage areas are just a few ways the company makes sure it’s taking care of the land that gives so much.
Monte Vista’s progressive nature is pretty unique for ag. Its technology and transparency have allowed the agribusiness to recruit young professionals thought out of reach by the industry.
“We want to continuously improve: improve our processes, our product, our relationships, even the quality of life for every member of the team,” Hoff said.
Consider agriculture rebranded. Now, where do we apply?
Packaged and marketed under the California Royale Brand, almonds that are grown by the Monte Vista Farming Company and its independent growers are proudly sold in more than 20 countries worldwide.
The success of the brand is a credit to the growers and the management of the company, as well as the founding vision. Our business is built on personal and prompt communication. Logistics are our specialty and our team seamlessly navigates booking confirmations and bill of lading proofs. We’re sticklers for accurate reporting and documentation, and our exportation team can help you overcome almost any hurdle.