19 Jun 2009  HBS Business Summit

Business Summit: The Evolution of Agribusiness

Agribusiness has come to be seen not just as economically important, but as a critical part of society. The future for this massive industry will be both exciting and complex.

 

Editor's Note: This is a summary of an HBS Business Summit presentation. View a full summary and video of the event on the HBS Centennial Web site linked below.

Date of Event:October 13, 2008
Moderator:David E. Bell, HBS faculty
Speakers:Ray Goldberg, HBS faculty, Emeritus
Frank Ning, Chairman, COFCO Ltd.
Alberto Weisser, CEO and Chairman of the Board, Bunge Limited

Professor Bell moderated a discussion of agribusiness past, present, and future. Professor Goldberg shared his perspective on the inception of the field of agribusiness and its evolution; the other panelists discussed present and future challenges based on their unique vantage points.

Through the study of agribusiness at Harvard Business School, the notion of the value-added food chain was born. Both the study and practice of agribusiness have evolved significantly over the decades. During that time, agribusiness has come to be seen not just as economically important, but as a critical part of society. Agribusiness touches on health, nutrition, safety, science, and government. One particular step in the evolutionary process is a transformation that occurred in the past decade. Some industry players have gone from being low-margin commodity producers to higher-margin providers of "solutions."

The future for this massive industry will be both exciting and complex. To feed the world, production must double by 2050, while dealing with political issues, water constraints, price volatility, and the need for more sustainable practices. But, due to more efficient operating practices, new technologies, and increased levels of partnership and collaboration across the supply chain, the future for the industry is very attractive.

Key concepts include:

  • A collaborative partnership mentality has transformed both the agribusiness sector and its study at HBS.
  • From the perspective of a large global agribusiness company, the value is in "the whole chain."
  • China faces a unique set of agribusiness challenges as the country seeks to become more self-sufficient.
  • Read the in-depth summary [PDF]

For more coverage: (no video)
http://www.hbs.edu/centennial/businesssummit/business-society/agribusiness.html