April 28, 2011
Jim Rogers saw the writing on the wall for America several years ago. He uprooted his wife and family from New York and went where the opportunity was– Singapore. Rogers has famously said that the best career advice he can give a young person setting out to make a fortune today is to become a farmer.
Unlike some news anchors, who seem to take the comment in jest, I believe he is completely serious. Forget investment banking, derivatives trading, or managing a hedge fund. The big fortunes of the coming decade or two may well be made in agriculture.
Those quick to dismiss the notion assume this means toiling in the fields all day from dawn to dusk. Wrong. There are MANY ways of making a buck in farming and agriculture.
Farming itself is just one part of the supply chain. You could supply seeds, chemicals, fertilizer or stock feed. You could breed some exotic variety of cattle or pigs. You could provide logistics services to get products to market. You could even set up a fund to invest in agribusinesses on behalf of others.
There are literally dozens of ways to play this.
I just finished reading an uplifting account of a young Filipino entrepreneur (only thirty-one years old) who’s well on the way to floating his diversified agribusiness company on the Philippine Stock Exchange for P2 BILLION ($46.5 million).
In just 7 years, he’s grown the company, which does everything from selling livestock feed, to running rural supplies stores, to raising chicken hatchlings.
Annual sales have increased 9-fold from P200 million to P1.8 billion. Profits this year should hit P137 million based on company projections. By 2013 they’re targeting P425 million. That’s US$10 million, give or take, in net profit, all from doing something very basic.
Put simply, so little new blood and talent has entered the agriculture business in the past generation that many business practices remain stuck in a time warp.
How many people do you know who majored in agricultural science at university? How may people can you think of who stayed on to run their parents’ farm, or returned to the land to run their own business?
Now, compare that to how many bankers, brokers, accountants, and lawyers you know…
Ten years ago, NOBODY studied geology and people looked at you as though you had two heads if you said you wanted to be a mining engineer. Today, agriculture is in the same boat, and the complete dearth of new talent in the agricultural industry is a sure sign to me of the wide-open field of opportunity.
In the Philippines, so low-hanging was the fruit — if you’ll pardon the pun — that this young entrepreneur I just mentioned was able to double profits at his parents’ farm supply business when he took it over, simply by installing some off-the-shelf accounting software.
You may think this is an extreme example, but I can tell you that there are dozens of countries in the same situation. Paraguay is one of them.
We talk a lot in our discussions about ‘adding value’ as a means to generate income, either as an employee, professional, investor, or entrepreneur. This is an important principle to understand because being able to generate independent income is absolutely necessary to become more self-reliant.
I’m quick to point out that the value creation process is often derived from solving problems– the bigger the problem, or the more people it affects, the greater the value created… and hence, the greater the reward.
Quite simply, there are a lot of problems to be solved in developing markets– lack of modernization, lack of technological know-how, lack of best business practice know-how, lack of financing and appropriate capital management, etc.
These are often second nature to many westerners who typically have both the knowledge and experience to make a big difference, and hence create a lot of value, overseas. One just needs the courage to do it… and prove Jim Rogers right.