A human brain being displayed as part of an exhibition Getty Images/Matt Cardy

Wonderment breeds great ideas, products

I have always envied the mind of the innovator, the inventor.

We all know that one person in the neighborhood who can not only see a problem but who can devise a way to solve that problem or at least come up with a way to make the problem easier to cope with. I can see where a problem exists, and I can think of a solution. But that’s where it stops. I cannot get the ideas from my head onto a spec sheet to result in a finished product.

Any farm show, and in particular World Pork Expo and individual state pork gatherings, offers a display of products of great thinkers. Every year, National Hog Farmer has highlighted some of the latest and greatest innovations to make hog producers’ jobs easier, more efficient and more productive in the New Product Tour during the annual World Pork Expo.

Various companies nominated 31 of their products  to be considered this year by the esteemed panel of judges — Pat Thome, Minnesota pork producer; Aaron Lower, veterinarian from Carthage Veterinary Service in Illinois; Joseph Darrington, South Dakota State University engineer; and Erik Potter, Iowa State University Extension swine specialist.

I did not envy the work of these four judges as they pored over documentation submitted for each product, as they narrowed the 31 nominations down to eight, a number that we could comfortably tour in one day during World Pork Expo. It was interesting being a “fly on the wall” as this varied-background panel first methodically chose the eight “finalists,” and then again as they questioned the company representatives as they provided the judges a personal sales pitch.

Though the judges chose eight finalists, there were no real winners or losers. All of the 31 nominated new products hold merit for global hog producers, or else these products would have never got beyond the idea stage. I take that back; one winner was declared as Osborne’s Fast Start Feeder received the Producers’ Choice Award as the fan favorite during voting that took place before and during World Pork Expo. The fact that Osborne’s product was not chosen as a “finalist” by the judges, yet garnered great interest from show attendees further exemplifies just how tough the competition was that the judges had to consider.

Work of the judges continued as they rehashed and deliberated on the benefits and shortcomings of each of the eight finalist products. This was not a job that they took lightly, just as the designers of these products did not leave any detail unturned.

As the panel judges were receiving the sales pitches from the company reps, I’m sure there were a number of show attendees, the average hog producer, who was studying the plethora of products, goods and services on display, and thinking to themselves “I wonder if I could make that, or improve that, in my shop at home.”

Great products start with an idea in someone’s head, someone asking, “I wonder if …” and “why not …” It takes a real innovator to take it from the idea stage to an actual product being used in the barns, benefiting producers day in and day out.

Who knows, maybe an idea today will be featured in the 2018 New Product Tour. That’s something worth shooting for.

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