As a key player in the agriculture industry, AFSC has an obligation to help our clients and the ag industry face increasingly complex needs such as improving productivity, security, sustainability and resilience in food and agriculture.

From the outside looking in, this may sound complicated and daunting. How does the agricultural industry increase productivity? How do we become more sustainable? How do we support building a strong foundation for a resilient agriculture sector? Moreover, the most important question for AFSC, how do we continue to serve our client better?

The answer is by finding new and improved ways of doing things. We innovate.

AFSC is working for you to get in front of good opportunities – ahead of the curve – to add value to the industry and complement the immediate or everyday work in agriculture.

Building on its rich history of research and development, AFSC has taken a systematic approach to innovation — and in January 2020 — we launched an official Innovation team. Our knowledge of earlier work in this field – including the invention of programs and changes to existing ones – has been essential to producers and industry stakeholders.

You might wonder how innovation has changed at AFSC from past years. Today, the AFSC Innovation team is looking at ideas from a longer range view, where traditionally we focused on shorter term or more immediate improvements. You might ask, what does that mean for me? The answer is this: AFSC is working for you to get in front of good opportunities – ahead of the curve – to add value to the industry and complement the immediate or everyday work in agriculture. In other words, AFSC’s Innovation team is working on your behalf to search for ideas and solutions that help solve industry challenges and make improvements to your day-to-day pain points.

It won’t be surprising to know that to make this happen, the Innovation team must start by finding good ideas. This search involves networking and connecting externally with industry groups, academic institutions, ag tech companies or others who have unique views of agriculture. These connections are instrumental in forming new ideas and getting us to think outside of the normal financial services boundaries.

Next, based on research and logic, the Innovation team determines how much value potential the idea has. The challenge at this point becomes narrowing down the mountain of ideas — or “things we could do” — to selecting the ideas that bring the most value to our clients, industry, and our services and products. We consider criteria such as ease of implementation, overall benefits, number of people affected, overall cost and how much the idea would positively change the way business is done. At the same time, the Innovation team tries to keep the “shininess quotient” low by looking at how pragmatic the idea is in its application, rather than how new or exciting it is. A good solution might not be the shiniest one, so to speak. Overall, this process is meant to maximize value to the investment, whether in dollars or hour of time spent.

Lastly, to be successful, the Innovation team must be able to communicate the value of a good idea. How does the idea make a positive difference in the lives of producers? If the idea is implemented and creates a more relevant and useful business risk management landscape in Alberta, we know we have positively impacted the industry we love.

Join us next time when we will share some of the ideas the Innovation team is exploring right now—from finding better ways to monitor grain storage without having to climb a bin to reducing or eliminating redundancies in data entry that take up your valuable time. Both challenges have led to innovative solutions that have the potential to add great value to the industry.

See you then!