Monday, May 31, 2021

A lesson from General Motors vs Ford


A business marketing story to help us think about the challenge of attracting certain parts of the market for our new e-com store, is Alfred Sloan's classic, "My Years at General Motors."

Until the 1920’s Henry Ford dominated the automobile market with his factory produced cars and low price. He could build cars cheaper than his competitors and he dominated the market based on price by building just one model: The Model T. Car buyers back then saw the automobile as just a form of transportation, nothing more. Cars as a commodity. So they were happy to own Ford Model T.

GM challenged this paradigm and grew to be one of the dominant automobile makers in the world. How did they do this? One of their weapons was through product segmentation and in understanding their market. They changed the public’s perception of the automobile from just a means of getting around to being a symbol of status and luxury. They created several models, from the low priced Chevrolet to the high priced Cadillac, each targeted to a different market segment. Thanks in part to their product and marketing strategy GM eventually surpassed Ford Motor Company.

This is not a perfect comparison, but to look at garlic in context of Ford vs General Motors gives a sense of the challenge. For us, the equivalent of Ford is cheap imported garlic. Many consumers see garlic as a commodity, sure it’s a desirable flavour in their food, but it’s seen as one dimensional, sharp and strong. They wouldn’t consider paying more than $2 or $3 per pound. They were like the early buyers of the Model T. Our challenge is the same challenge that General Motors had over 100 years ago: How to make Ontario garlic and the products made with it, attractive to the segment of the population that sees garlic as a commodity, an essential ingredient maybe, but not worth more than the price paid for imported garlic.



Thursday, March 25, 2021

Crisis in the seed tray!

A morning glory seedling seems to have broken its stem. Its hanging on by a thread. Still getting nutrients, the young leaf is doing ok. But if this little guy is gonna survive I'll have to make a splint.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Where Robots go to Weed

A lot of hours are spent weeding on an organic farm. If weeds are not removed they steal soil fertility and moisture from the crop. That means smaller, less nutritious crop and less profit for the farmer. For organic raised farm products the farmer has access to a very limited arsenal of herbicides to selectively kill or hinder the growth of weeds. Many hours are spent physically removing weeds by hand, handheld tools or human driven machine (See my Sept 20, 2010 post on weeding). A potential solution from the field of machine robotics is a machine that can distinguish weeds and either remove them or spray them with a targeted quantity of herbicide. A machine that can physically remove weeds  would greatly reduce the cost of production for organic farmers. And for conventional farms that use herbicides the machine could reduce the quantity of herbicide required by applying it directly on the weeds and not in the surrounding area. This is an instance where robots can and will make small-scale farming easier and more profitable.