Agribusiness is the business of agricultural production. The term was coined in 1957 by Goldberg and Davis. It includes agrichemicals, breeding, crop production (farming and contract farming), distribution, farm machinery, processing, and seed supply, as well as marketing and retail sales. All agents of the food and fiber value chain and those institutions that influence it are part of the agribusiness system.
Within the agriculture industry, "agribusiness" is used simply as a portmanteau of agriculture and business, referring to the range of activities and disciplines encompassed by modern food production. There are academic degrees in and departments of agribusiness, agribusiness trade associations, agribusiness publications, and so forth, worldwide.
In the context of agribusiness management in academia, each individual element of agriculture production and distribution may be described as agribusinesses. However, the term "agribusiness" most often emphasizes the "interdependence" of these various sectors within the production chain.
Among critics of large-scale, industrialized, vertically integrated food production, the term agribusiness is used negatively, synonymous with corporate farming. As such, it is often contrasted with smaller family-owned farms.
Examples of agribusinesses include seed and agrichemical producers like Dow AgroSciences, DuPont, Monsanto, and Syngenta; AB Agri (part of Associated British Foods) animal feeds, biofuels, and micro-ingredients, ADM, grain transport and processing; John Deere, farm machinery producer; Ocean Spray, farmer's cooperative; and Purina Farms, agritourism farm.
As concern over global warming intensifies, biofuels derived from crops are gaining increased public and scientific attention. This is driven by factors such as oil price spikes, the need for increased energy security, concern over greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels, and support from government subsidies. In Europe and in the US, increased research and production of biofuels have been mandated by law.
Studies of agribusiness often come from the academic fields of agricultural economics and management studies, sometimes called agribusiness management. To promote more development of food economies, many government agencies support the research and publication of economic studies and reports exploring agribusiness and agribusiness practices. Some of these studies are on foods produced for export and are derived from agencies focused on food exports. These agencies include the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), Austrade, and New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE).
The Federation of International Trade Associations publishes studies and reports by FAS and AAFC, as well as other non-governmental organizations on its website.
Ray A. Goldberg coined the term agribusiness together with coauthor John H. Davis. They provided a rigorous economic framework for the field in their book A Concept of Agribusiness (Boston: Division of Research, Graduate School of Business Administration, Harvard University, 1957). That seminal work traces a complex value-added chain that begins with the farmer's purchase of seed and livestock and ends with a product fit for the consumer's table. Agribusiness boundary expansion is driven by a variety of transaction costs.
Manuel Alvarado Ledesma (CEMA University, Argentina) and Peter D. Goldsmith (University of Illinois) explain the implications of weak institutions on agribusiness investment. According to them weak institutions lead to policy development and enforcement grounded in the moment, rather than based on precedent and deliberative processes over time.
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