In January, the Sioux Falls Farm Show in South Dakota went ahead with its annual in-person farm machinery show. In a press release, the organizers said it expected 18,000 visitors to come to the event this year to wander past the 320 exhibits. That despite published statistics showing South Dakota — at that time — had more than 107,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among its total state population of only just over 884,000.
But numbers like that are forcing some other U.S. shows to take a much more cautious approach. They have cancelled their in-person 2021 events. That group includes the two biggest ag machinery events in the United States, the Commodity Classic and U.S. Farm Progress Show, which will revert to an online presence.
Closer to home, in early February, organizers of Canada’s Farm Progress Show in Regina, Sask., were taking a wait-and-see approach on the fate of this year’s June event, according to Tyler Lloyd, director of marketing and communications. A final decision was expected at the beginning of March on whether a typical show could be held safely or would even be allowed under provincial regulations. If not, they will look at alternatives.
It’s becoming increasingly unlikely in-person events can be held at both the Ag in Motion event near Saskatoon, Sask., and Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show in Woodstock, Ont., which are both owned by Glacier FarmMedia, the parent company of Grainews. “Plans for virtual events are proceeding as hopes for a return to live events fade,” says Laura Rance-Unger, vice-president for content at GFM.
“For 2021, Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show is offering digital online events that we know we can deliver,” says Doug Wagner, show president. “Starting in March, and throughout this coming year, COFS will be partnering with Farmtario magazine to provide six digital online events that will examine current issues, new technologies and agribusiness, to mention a few.
“In addition, depending on the status of COVID-19 during the growing season, COFS is hoping to host smaller on-site events to complement the digital online events. The size of the on-site events and number of people that can attend will depend on the guidelines for outdoor gatherings by the area public health agencies.”
Across the Atlantic, DLG, the German Agricultural Society that runs Agritechnica, which is held every second year in Hannover, Germany, and is by far the world’s most prominent machinery show, has announced it still intends to hold its regularly scheduled in-person event this November. In a press release, DLG revealed around 90 per cent of the show’s floor space was booked by early February.
As impressive as that sounds, in past years the show’s available space would probably have been fully sold out by that time. It seems there is some reluctance on the part of many exhibitors to commit to attending. In fact, the show’s largest and arguably most important exhibitor, John Deere, recently announced it will not be present there this year because of COVID-19, which could not have been an easy decision for Deere executives to make. Almost all machinery brands use that show as a venue to make major product announcements.
But even as DLG announced it was still planning to hold a regular Agritechnica — for now, at least — it added that it, too, would be creating an online platform to offer a digital experience in parallel with its regular event. Beginning in May, exhibitors will be able to have an online presence through the show’s “Agritechnica digital” platform.
Cleary, COVID-19 rates remain a wildcard for Agritechnica, too. Reported cases in Germany have been on the decline since late December, but the rolling seven-day average number of new daily infections at the end of January remained above 10,000. In neighbouring France, the daily average rate was double that, topping 20,000, and not significantly declining. The positivity rate in Europe isn’t all that encouraging overall just yet. However, November is a long way off, and things could brighten up a lot by then. Fingers crossed.