The Evolution of an Industry and a Seminar
The "agribusiness" concept was developed in the 1950s by Ray A. Goldberg, a founding father of the field and the George M. Moffett Professor of Agriculture and Business, Emeritus, at Harvard Business School. The idea for an agribusiness seminar for senior executives soon grew out of the School's elective MBA course in agribusiness management, which was based on a conceptual framework that Goldberg codeveloped with John H. Davis, the former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Agriculture. The seminar's development also was precipitated by other research conducted by Goldberg and Professor Wassily Leontief.
From its beginning more than 50 years ago, the Agribusiness Seminar has been ahead of its time. Several unique factors have contributed to the program's futuristic orientation—a dedicated focus on global and domestic trends; the involvement of change makers in case development; the perception that this thriving market system is also a political, societal, and economic developmental system; and representation from all participants of the value-added system, as well as from consumer groups and governmental leaders. For example, a case study on Amul Dairy in India became a model for farmers' cooperatives around the world; and Dr. J. Craig Venter, cofounder of Celera Genomics, which first mapped the human genome, was a guest for two consecutive years. In addition, leaders from the USDA, FDA, and EPA often have been present, and the program has attracted virtually every U.S. Secretary of Agriculture from the Eisenhower through the Bush administrations.
In essence, this HBS seminar has helped to create a growing profession. While "agribusiness" once was not even a word, more than 100 agribusiness programs currently are offered around the globe. Today, the International Food and Agribusiness Management Association (IFAMA), created in 1990, has over 950 members in more than 50 countries. HBS Agribusiness Program Director Mary L. Shelman is the president of IFAMA.
With much to learn in this advancing field, new materials are created for each course offering to reflect ongoing changes, and many individuals participate in the program year after year. The Agribusiness Seminar will continue to build on its impressive legacy to educate global leaders for years to come. As David E. Bell, the program faculty chair, observes, "With innovation at the heart of every successful agribusiness initiative, proactive leadership has become a mandate for organizations today. In the School's ongoing effort to develop knowledgeable, forward-thinking industry leaders, it is critical that our case studies focus on the latest trends, key challenges, and innovative strategies impacting agribusiness worldwide."
"This seminar is one of the greatest opportunities to broaden your horizons, look into the future to see where agribusiness is headed, and take those trends into account as you prepare to meet that future. It takes you outside your business, your region, and your country, which is important because what happens in the rest of the world really matters. Our wonderful group has kept in touch, and I've already met with one person about a business opportunity."
David Lock [CEO], Craig Mostyn Group, Perth, Australia