Does life begin at the edge of your comfort zone?

At REAP 2023 we’ll be exploring what benefits can be gained – for people, crops and livestock – from moving out of the comfort zone and into the “stretch” zone.

And what being in the “panic” zone means for the long-term future of our industry.

Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable

Agriculture has always operated in the face of challenges. Rarely do we see a perfect growing season, ideal input costs, favourable trading conditions, a stable policy environment, and a smooth supply chain.  

The industry is historically used to being “uncomfortable” and having to respond to unforeseen or unwelcome changes.

But we are now in an environment where those challenges are becoming increasingly extreme and unpredictable. So our systems (both in the natural world and in business) need to adapt to be able to cope with them.

Too much or too little water, wider extremes of temperature, increasing salinity and even the migration or emergence of new pests and diseases all put additional strain on the biological systems in and on a farm.

Supply chain pressures, administrative requirements, labour and talent shortages and tight margins mean that few agri-food businesses can claim to be comfortably operating where they would most like to be.

And the recent nexus of the global pandemic, major geo-political unrest, and increasingly extreme weather events are making life very challenging indeed, stretching people and businesses into potentially uncharted territory.

What’s Your Zone?

Psychological theory has identified three “zones” – Comfort, Stretch and Panic – that stimulate different types of behaviour. Arguably, the “comfort” zone lacks the motivation to try new things, while the “panic” zone engenders confusion and lack of focus.

The “stretch” zone, however, is where – hypothetically, at least – fresh thinking can happen, processes are improved, and innovation ensues.

As with any theory, the real world doesn’t follow text-book patterns, but we’ve seen the industry – and indeed farm businesses – cycle between these different zones over the years.

There is no doubt we are in a seriously stretched zone right now. So, it’s time to act before panic sets in, harnessing this moment to explore, develop and implement new innovations.

Technology… Here To Help

We know technology isn’t the silver bullet. But at REAP 2023 we’re going to explore some of the innovations that we think can help.

Improved forecasting, precision application to deliver what is needed at that precise time, and use of modelling can help with better preparedness. Early tackling of illness in livestock helps maintain welfare standards as well as ensuring quality outputs.

With better monitoring, closer management is possible and there are even arguments for bringing some systems into a protected environment – arguably an artificial ‘comfort zone’.

In addition, those who have adapted to life at the limits can inspire mainstream solutions to develop resilience on farms. Plants with tolerance to inhospitably high levels of salt, heat or cold, for example, can inform breeding approaches to enable the cultivation of less hospitable environments.

Changing the environment in which crops are grown can push them to produce more or widen the arable rotation by using crops better adapted to the new “comfort zones” within which agriculture is operating.

Innovation Hub exhibitors BBRO and Space East

Join us at REAP 2023

By attending this year’s REAP conference – our 10th – you’ll meet forward-thinking farmers looking for new solutions, researchers and tech developers with leading-edge innovations, as well as those making policy, providing funding and finance.

It’s a supportive environment for farmers and innovators to not just survive, but thrive, in their stretch zone. Find out more about REAP 2023.

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This post originally appeared on TechToday.