Back to the Future

Maximizing on emerging information technology

Published in the May 2012 Issue Published online: May 10, 2012 Jerry Wright, President & CEO, United Potato Growe

Dick Tracy was a famous comic book character-a detective. On his wrist, he wore what looked like a wristwatch. It was actually a two-way radio. The bad guys didn't have wrist radios. Dick Tracy was successful in outsmarting the bad guys because he capitalized on outstanding communication.

Ten years ago I placed a call on my cell phone by entering the proper numerical sequence on the key pad. A few years later, my cell phone allowed me to communicate silently by sending and receiving text messages. Today, I talk to my cell phone and it guides me to the nearest Pizza Hut.

Emerging information technology is constantly changing the way we communicate. It is changing the way we think about business. It is changing the way we do business. There is no end in sight regarding future advances in communication capability. Why shouldn't the potato grower maximize this technological advance in all aspects of his business? Answer: Regarding market aspects of his business, United Potato Growers of America is doing just that.

The success of UPGA in stabilizing potato markets is unprecedented in the produce industry. Why? Not because of mandates or quotas. No grower was forced to do anything. The miracle that happened, which has changed forever a potato grower's economic outlook, resulted from a two-pronged approach:

1) The first was UPGA gave potato growers correct market information, and they used that information to better manage their position in the market. Accurate information empowers smart decision-making.

2) Second, UPGA provides a free-flowing communication system that allows correct market information to pass unimpeded between member potato growers. This energized communication system changed growing potatoes from a highly risky endeavor into an actual business model.

Restated, North American potato growers got together through UPGA and developed a communication system that shares key market information, information that enables a member grower to make vital economic decisions. That's it! It almost seems too simple, too easy. Especially too simple to have accomplished all that it has.

Leonardo DaVinci said, "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication." And that is where UPGA is headed. Since taking the reins at United Potato Growers of America, I constantly evaluate both the current data flow we have and the future data our members need, all with the objective of seeking ways to improve it, purify it. There is definitely room for improvement. United members are going to be pleased with this finding, and I am confident they will benefit from it. UPGA is headed back to the future into an exciting new era of data sourcing, warehousing and distribution. Members should stay tuned for important changes and improvements. We invite all growers to join us as we move into the future.

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