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Identifying Profitable Niches in Agriculture: Exploring Unconventional Crops and Farming Techniques

Within the agriculture industry, niche products allow business owners to provide a product specifically suited to the wants of their demographic. Identifying niche markets requires selling a product that is not already saturated within the market. Niche markets within agriculture are started through new business ventures or through farmers who want to find a unique way to utilize their product.

For example, a buckwheat farmer whose main goal is to produce a product that goes into various foods, may also develop a pillow stuffed with buckwheat hulls rather than feathers. This is another stream of revenue for the farmer and is considered a niche market.

Agriculture experts can offer business strategies to those interested in niche markets. Niche markets also include unconventional crops and farming techniques. Let’s explore how to identify a niche market, as well as some of these crops and techniques within niche markets.

Identify Niche Markets

Identifying and developing a niche market involves finding the product, determining price, strategic market placement, developing marketing strategies, and determining labor needs for product production.

These steps are important to develop a solid foundation for a niche product. The success of a niche product depends on ensuring the price of the product is high enough to cover costs, and there are workers to efficiently produce and market the product.

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The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that in 2020, around 78 percent of farms that sold directly to customers sold all of their directly marketed food within a 100 mile radius. Additionally, in 2020, on-farm stores and farmer’s markets accounted for $1.7 million, which was 59 percent of the direct-to-consumer sales for the year. These statistics are encouraging for producers who have not yet stepped into niche markets.

Formulating a business plan, seeking advice from agriculture market experts, identifying a product and stepping into these markets is mutually beneficial for producers and consumers alike.

Unconventional Crops and Farming Techniques

The USDA provides information for producers on alternative crops in order to diversify their farms. Examples of these crops range from specialty field crops, vegetables and fruits to  nuts, horticulture and forestry products. Elderberries are one fruit from this list, and in the Midwest, elderberries hold potential for niche markets, which will diversify income streams.

Combining niche products with unconventional farming techniques is popular within niche markets. Examples of these techniques include aquaponics, vertical farming and community supported agriculture. These techniques as well as other unconventional farming techniques often focus on sustainability and provide benefits such as water conservation, increased biodiversity and energy efficiency.

Final Thoughts

Niche markets are becoming more popular as producers look to diversify their farms. Many niche products are sold in farmer’s markets, which are providing community food access, fueling local economies, and supporting conservation and education.

Forward-thinking agriculture experts can assist the industry in identifying profitable niche markets. Identifying a product that will succeed within the producer’s demographic and forming a strong business plan will help ensure the success of entering into niche markets.

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