The American Farm Bureau Federation kicked off its 96th Annual Convention and IDEAg Trade Show with a panel discussion for VIP attendees, “The Future of Agriculture,” featuring executives from Wal-Mart, DuPont Pioneer and CNH Industrial Precision Solutions & Telematics.

Following AFBF President Bob Stallman’s introduction of the panelists, Jerry Flint, vice president of regulatory and industry affairs, DuPont Pioneer, took the stage and gave a glimpse of the company’s future offerings.

“What I see happening five to 15 years out is promising results in insect control, agronomic traits and soybeans,” Flint said. He added that DuPont anticipates tremendous growth in its soybean products and will continue to provide varieties like its high-oleic Plenish to meet the needs of the processing industry. “In our research pipeline we have transgenic approaches to drought tolerance to combine with AQUAmax,” he said.

Trevor Mecham, director, CNH Industrial Precision Solutions & Telematics, NAFTA Region, said the company’s Case-IH division is already implementing precision tractor controls inspired by the auto industry and predicted further innovation in this area.

“When we think about the decade ahead of us, people think of driverless tractors, but from a practical standpoint we’re probably not quite there,” Mecham said. “But autosteering was a mind-blowing concept only 15 years ago and today it can be done wirelessly.”

Innovations like park-assist, GPS tracking and wireless data access will continue to increase.

Mecham said today’s tractors carry enormous amounts of producers’ agronomy data and warned farmers to be cautious about sharing it with companies or other individuals.

“Anyone who shares their data needs to understand the agreement,” Mecham warned. “When you start setting up this data in your tractor you need to know there’s some sensitive stuff in there and that’s not to scare you, but for you to understand that data belongs to the customers.”

The final panelist, Tom Leech, senior vice president of global food and consumable sourcing, Wal-Mart, said consumer trends are driving Wal-Mart’s grocery sourcing and supply chain decisions. The public’s appetite for organic, GMO-free, gluten-free and locally sourced, sustainable foods will continue to grow, Leech predicted, and Wal-Mart is dedicated to delivering those goods at affordable prices.

“We’ve heard a lot in the last year about feeding 9.6 billion people by 2050 and that’s Wal-Mart’s challenge,” Leech said. “Our goal is to do it safely and sustainably, but it’s got to be affordable. We look to leverage our supply chain to take costs out of our system.”

While Wal-Mart will continue to source more specialty commodities, Leech said educating the public about the science behind GMOs will be key to increasing public acceptance.

“Wal-Mart’s position is we have to provide choice for our customers and we have to be as transparent as possible,” Leech said. “What we’re trying to do is work with all our suppliers to figure out how we create a context for the public so we can reduce misinformation. We try hard not to decide for the customer. We give them the information to make their own choice.”

After the panel discussion, attendees were treated to a sneak peak at the all-new IDEAg Trade Show featuring cutting edge products displayed by exhibitors.