Unconventional Ag Sneak Peak: An Interview With Conference Co-Chair Peter Golbitz
By Michelle Pelletier Marshall, Unconventional Ag Media
Next month we will host our annual event – newly renamed this year as Unconventional Ag, and formerly known as the Organic & Non-GMO Forum – November 29-30, in Minneapolis. The two-day conference brings together farmers, grain handlers, processors, food marketers, equipment and technology providers, and others along the ag supply chain. Discussions ensue on specialty oilseed, grain, vegetable oil, and plant protein production alongside trade and processing, as well as the latest on regenerative, organic, and sustainable agriculture methods.
To get a better understanding of the event, and who and how one can benefit from attending, we present an excerpt below from an interview – titled “Unconventional Ag: A Conference for Producers Looking for New Ideas” – done earlier this month with Peter Golbitz, co-chair of Unconventional Ag, conducted by ag reporter Chrissy Wozniak of North American Ag media. You also can listen to the interview in its entirety here.
[Chrissy Wozniak] “Hi and welcome the next North American Ag Spotlight. I'm Chrissy Wozniak. My guest today is pretty much a neighbor of mine for half the year in Estero, Florida. We're going to be talking about a conference at the other end of the country today, the Unconventional Ag conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota. This eighth annual conference features the latest in regenerative, organic, and sustainable agriculture methods. From the Unconventional Ag conference and the founder of Agromeris, I'd like to welcome Peter Golbitz. Welcome, Peter. And thank you so much for being here today.
[Peter Golbitz] You're welcome, Chrissy. Thank you for having me.
[CW] Can you tell me a bit about Unconventional Ag and why it was started?
[PG] This is a great conference in that, over the years it has continued to evolve as the market needs evolved. It was started as the Organic & Non-GMO Forum to focus on specialty grain opportunities for producers, and also to help stimulate the interest among grain handlers and processors to be looking for and supporting this value-added opportunity for farmers by paying higher premiums for organic and non-GMO. As the market has evolved, and those markets have stabilized, the increased use of soybeans and legumes and other crops directly as human food and new plant-based alternatives also began to pick up steam. We've certainly seen the plant-based milk market evolve very quickly over the past 10 years, and in the past three or four years, plant-based meat alternatives have also exploded. That's created a lot of opportunities for food processors because as consumers see these products and get these products, there's a pull from the marketplace for processors to make these. We're definitely seeing a market shift, such as seeing higher demand for oats, pea, and for non-GMO soy, for example, as a result of that.
Unconventional Ag is about opportunities outside of just conventional ag, which we know as corn, soybean, and wheat crops, and mainly grown for commodity markets. But if you want to add additional value to your operation, as a farmer or as a food processor, you need to step into some of the newer emerging areas where consumers are willing to pay more.
This year we are adding a couple of specific focuses on plant-based products and fermentation. And while precision fermentation is not agriculture, per se, it is a new wave of agriculture in that we are growing organisms and proteins in fermentation vats. Whether or not you see that as agriculture, the reality is that it will compete with conventional agriculture. So it's important to explore those, it's important for people to understand what it’s all about and why that market exists, as well as how these products are made. It’s especially important to understand if this is an opportunity for me or potentially a threat for me in some areas. It’s an interesting mix.
At Unconventional Ag, we really want to bring together producer discussions, processor discussions, consumer needs, and consumer trends. I think it's the only conference where food and ag crossover; it's kind of a hybrid event – it isn't just about precision agriculture or just about food marketing, but it's a way of touching the middle of the market where everything needs to happen, in terms of pulling levers for more demand and pulling levers for responding to consumer demand for food products.
[CW] If you were to just boil it down to a main goal of the convention, what would that be?
[PG] It's to bring together the disparate parts of the value chain, right from the producer, right to the food processor. That also requires a look at the ultimate consumer. It brings those together to help facilitate the exchange, the networking, that development of that market, and to build it up and give it some strength.
Listen to the rest of the interview here.
ABOUT PETER GOLBITZ
Peter Golbitz has been involved in the global food and agricultural products industry for more than 35 years as a processor, consultant, publisher, and international business development director. While leading Agromeris from 2014 to 2022, Golbitz has worked with leading ingredient and consumer packaged goods companies and food startups, as well as government agencies and trade associations, on supply chain, market development and trade-related issues pertaining to the organic, non-GMO and plant-based foods markets. He has served as president of the Sustainable Food Trade Association, an advisor to the Plant Based Foods Association (PBFA), has sat on various technical committees of the Organic Trade Association, and was a founding member of the Soyfoods Association of North America (SANA) and the World Soy Foundation.