Growing, producing, and selling food is still a big business in today’s world.
The agriculture industry includes farms, but also foodservice and food manufacturing businesses. The agriculture industry is growing, especially in the area of farm management and the business of food production.
This means that agriculture has gone far beyond simple farming. The methods used in growing and distributing crops are crucial to getting food from the source out to consumers.
To work in agriculture, you need to learn some basics. Let’s start here with produce production and produce packaging.
Agriculture Production Basics
Agriculture production is the raising of plants or animals for use in sustaining human life. There are four categories of production:
- Food (example: grains)
- Fuels (example: ethanol)
- Fibers (example: cotton)
- Raw Materials (example: animal feed)
Cultivating produce means you use land to grow crops for one of the categories listed above. After harvesting, farmers sell their crops to businesses that specialize in processing them. Processors, in turn, sell the processed crops to distributors. Distributors then sell finished foods to restaurants, grocery chains, or any company that sells food.
Growing produce, such as vegetables, means knowing what conditions need to be in place for the plants to thrive. Soil composition, water quality and availability, and pest control are factors that will make or break a crop. A farmer must know the specific requirements of any plant they intend to grow.
Besides the actual farming of produce, agriculturalists must pay attention to the marketing of their crops. A produce farmer must determine ahead of time what type(s) of produce will bring the highest return. And a farmer of produce must have a system for getting their crops into the hands of consumers.
Produce Packaging Today
Open-air markets are nostalgic, but with today’s concerns for food safety, the packaging of produce is crucial.
Some issues that must be taken into account when you are growing and selling produce include:
Produce is perishable, and consumers want produce that is fresh right from the farm to the table. Increasing the shelf-life of produce is the number one concern of packagers. Automated packaging using well-sealed containers cuts down the time needed to get that food out to consumers.
As important as increased shelf-life is, there is also demand for packaging that is biodegradable. Lessening the use of certain plastics, and finding new materials for eco-friendly packaging is the trend today.
Online Food Shopping and Delivery
Online grocery and food delivery have skyrocketed in the past year. This shift in shopping means that produce packaging must be able to hold up during even more shipping from place to place than in years past.
Packaging IS Marketing
Produce packaging must be functional, AND promotional. The packaging is instant advertising and should be used for that purpose too.
The style of a package and what the package says about the product inside can draw consumers to any item. Farmed produce should arrive in a package that speaks of freshness, and quality. Packaging can make or break your product.
These are some of the issues in packaging produce. Usually, this is more than the producer alone can take on. It is at this point that a co-manufacturer or copacker can enter the picture.
What is a Co-Packer?
A co-packer, also known as a contract-manufacturer, is a company that can manufacture and package foods for clients. Think of a co-packer as someone to whom you are outsourcing your production and/or packaging.
A co-packer can actually make food products to your exact specifications for a price. A co-packer can also receive your produce in bulk and package it for you. This is an efficient, cost-effective way to get your product into the marketplace. It alleviates the farmer from having to take on the packaging and all it entails.
If you are farming vegetables, for example, you can hire a co-packager to package your product. A co-packer can assist you with quality control, and get your goods out to distributors. This gives you time to concentrate on farming and establishing a marketing plan.
Co-packers work with food growers on one hand, and with food distributors on the other, acting as a middleman for each side’s particular needs. While co-packer companies are not cheap, working with one of these companies can save the food producer time and money.
When to Outsource
If you do not have the time or the facility to run quality control tests on your produce, it is time to outsource to a co-packer.
If you cannot keep up with the demands for your produce, outsourcing your packaging needs is crucial. Since packaging is ever-changing, staying current with packaging trends may be impossible for a single farm.
Add to this problem the shorter shelf-life of produce, and you see that a reputable co-packer can be very helpful.
To prepare for this possibility, it’s important to have a business plan for your produce farm.
Create a Plan and Network
A produce farm should have a business plan that includes agricultural goals, backed up with market research. This is so that you are certain you can turn a profit with what you plant.
The plan must have a budget that includes the amount of money needed to buy land, equipment, as well as packaging materials.
A marketing strategy for your produce will include ideas about packaging. Try to offer a projection about when outsourcing of any kind should occur.
In this planning stage, talking with successful agricultural businesses will be invaluable. Learning their strategies, and their networks of co-packers and manufactures will aid you in your own choices.
Collaboration in Agriculture Production
Produce packaging is part of a collaborative enterprise between agricultural businesses. Growers, manufacturers, packagers, and marketers all work together to provide people with the food they want. Partnerships between all the players in this industry help keep profits high, and consumers happy!
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