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What do you know that no one else understands? – Peter Thiel


“All great thinkers are initially ridiculed – and eventually revered.”
~ Robin S. Sharma

Contrarian Agriculture

          Opposite in nature, direction, or meaning.

The most entrepreneurial paths are those that are new and untried.  Identifying those paths comes, at least in part, from the way the entrepreneur looks at and interacts with the world around him or her.  While pleasing other people is not a bad habit, agreeing too quickly with others on the way the world works today dampens one’s ability to identify interesting opportunities.

My contention is that entrepreneurs find ways to be contrarian.  In doing so they uncover ideas, pathways, and ultimately businesses that are trail-blazing.  Peter Thiel gets at this in interviews and his book Zero to One by asking ‘what truth do few people agree with you on?’

One method I suggest to students for putting your inner contrarian to work is to capture it in a persona.  In my case, I envision a neighbor of my grandfather named Vladi.  Vlcdi was dead before I was even born, but I still recall Grandpa’s tales about the sheer orneriness of Vladi, and some of the funny reactions to his behaviors.  So my inner contrarian takes the form in my mind of a German-accented farmer in 1930s bib overalls growling disagreement at those people and situations he encounters, just for the amusement of it really.

Another means of honing your contrarian skills is to examine bits of conventional wisdom and where you may differ from it.  Conventional wisdom is the body of ideas or explanations generally accepted as true by the public or by experts in a field.

Five examples of what I take as conventional wisdom in agriculture includes the following.

  1. Agriculture’s primary challenge between now and 2050 is how to feed the growth in world population from today’s 7.4 billion to the 9.4 to 10.0 billion in 2050.
  2. Cheaper energy means that supply chains in agriculture will be longer.  The distance between where agricultural and food products are produced and where they are further processed/consumed/used will increase.
  3. The most significant resource constraints for agriculture will be land and water.
  4. The emerging middle class in countries with rapid economic growth are adopting western diets.
  5. Economies of scale will continue to heavily impact farm and business size, with increasingly large farms and agricultural businesses occupying a bigger part of markets.

What does your inner (or outer!) contrarian tell you about any one of these five examples of conventional wisdom in agriculture?  Reply to this post.  In addition, reply not only to this post but to those of other respondents.  Do you disagree with any of these examples of conventional wisdom? Unleash your inner contrarian!