In March 2017, along with a group of experts from the United States, I attended a conference on modern soybean and maize cultivation technologies organized by the Agrilab consulting company. Within this framework, we visited three farms and talked with at least a dozen experts. And here is what the main conclusion I made from what I have seen and heard: the problem of personnel in agriculture in Ukraine is very acute.
It is not only the search for the necessary specialists but also their maintenance, creating acceptable conditions for their families. Where to find out if there is a kindergarten and children’s school next to infrastructure and entertainment? This is just the most general list of issues that have not been solved in rural areas, where most agricultural companies work.
Time management in the field
Why do I focus on the problem of staffing? Because it seems to me that this is the weakest link. Of course, sustainable agriculture needs to integrate all three main goals: a healthy environment, economic profitability and socio-economic justice. Or, as far as my experience is concerned, this is a combination of geography, technology and demography.
Geography in the case of agribusiness is more or less given a priori. Technology is easy to copy. Just like buying the necessary equipment. But demographics and the presence of the necessary personnel is a problem even for the USA.
It seems trivial, but how many projects did not happen or failed because of ignoring this simple factor. Agriculture is an area where everything is interconnected and of one element leads to the collapse of the entire business. This field requires exceptional attention to detail and rigid executive discipline.
For example, when I was working at John Deere, I once had a problem with tires and 400 tractors all the month were standing in the field near the factory. Nothing can be postponed in agricultural technology. Do not bring food – animals or birds will die. They will not wait for a month. In two weeks you will be left without a harvest.
TODAY, THE FARMER IN US IS THE MILLIONER WHO WORKS himself ON his FARM
So today, a farmer in the US is a millionaire who works on his own farm. As a simple worker, twist the wheel of a tractor. This allows him to better understand where the weaknesses in the processes that are needed to reduce costs and how it can be done. In Ukraine, a tractor driver is often a hired manpower. In the best case, he simply performs the task properly and does not steal anything, in the worst case, you know for yourself.
I do not urge the heads of large enterprises to sit down in the tractor, but this can be done by mid-level specialists – agronomists, mechanics, IT-specialists. They are immersed in the direct process all year round and are a link between the tractor and everything else.
Such an approach can be effective, albeit temporarily. The village needs skilled personnel at each site, but losing them to the province of the company is not in power. Even those with the best production base. The infrastructure in the countryside is in a terrible state.
The strategic task here is to develop it and, at the same time, to create its own training system. This is a long, complex process that requires hard and constant work.
How life should look in the wilderness, I will show on the example of America. The Tyler farm I’ve visited has been running its business in the small town of Benson, Minnesota with a population of 3200 people.
Listing all that is in it can take half of that column. In short, there are 2 hotels, 20 restaurants, 20 churches, a swimming pool school, a couple of sports clubs, a golf course, a library, a movie theater, dozens of doctors, more than 20 different stores, a pharmacy, dry-cleaners, a washing machine, a few refueling stations and car repair shops. , a couple of banks, law firms, insurance agencies, and a travel agency.
All roads in the town are paved. And at the same time, residents complained that this is a terrible wilderness. They were not in the Ukrainian village, where it is often impossible to find even an impoverished buffet.
In short, sustainable agriculture requires systemic solutions and, first and foremost, in the social sphere.
In the United States, they work best, if business, local government and people work together. For example, John Deere could not attract operators of metalworking centers in Waterloo, Iowa. Then they agreed with the local college and organized a training group of operators. The tuition was paid for by themselves, but under the terms of the contract after graduating from college graduates had to work two years at the factory. The minimum wage was $ 20 per hour.
POPULARIZATION OF AGRICULTURAL BUSINESS IN SCHOOLS is an important issue
An important issue is the popularization of agrarian business in schools. Today, agriculture is not a peasant with a horse standing on a knee in pus but an industry on the cutting edge of science and technology. This is space technology in the field of navigation, remote sensing of the earth’s surface and weather, processing huge amounts of data, robotics and automation, Internet things, drones, and gadgets. That is all that is attractive for young people.
Each company needs to allocate a line in the budget for the training of interns from the most talented students, students. At the same time, it is necessary to work with specialized universities and colleges.
Improved infrastructure can and processing of manufactured products. For example, it was not in any of the Ukrainian farms I’ve been communicating with. Each village with a population of more than 3 thousand can have its own processing of milk and meat, a bakery, a brewery, a greenhouse and other production.
All this, at first glance, does not apply to the basic business strategy, for example, the production of grain, milk or meat. But without creating the necessary social conditions for training and staffing, achieving a sustainable and successful business will be very difficult. And to start this work is necessary “yesterday”.