Be Your Own Guru

In coffee shops across the country, people are talking about the Trade War and commodity prices, yet no one is really talking about the same thing. Unlike other platforms or media articles, the questions asked on AFN are specific and have a definitive outcome.  This allows everyone to forecast, share ideas, and learn without ambiguity.

Instead of vague questions, the Ag Forecast Network tool (AFN) provides much-needed context. For example:

ag forecast network,,, ag trends, ag uncertainties

AFN is a community designed to challenge and improve the skills of navigating agricultural uncertainties.  AFN offers a decision framework that provides feedback: how does your forecast compare to the consensus, how has your forecast changed over time, how well did your forecast score?

Making intelligent decisions when future events are uncertain is one of the greatest forms of skill.” – Howard Marks

If you are an agricultural decision-maker and want to improve the skill of navigating uncertainty, AFN was built for you.

The AFN Origin Story

More than two years ago, Brent and David (AFN’s co-founders), were discussing the corn market and a fairly routine question came up:  Could the corn market rally to $4.25 this summer?

While both agreed that the outcome was possible, the ensuing discussion made it clear that they weren’t on the same page.  By chance, Brent blurted out that there was a 70 percent chance and David retorted that the likelihood was only 10 percent. Why the disconnect? It was clear something was missing from how they each thought about uncertainty in the markets.

Basically, their expectations were ships in the night passing each other.

Brent and David realized they were both trapped in what they came to know as the “pyramid of doom”: 1) open-ended questions that lead to 2) vague or overly-confident responses that 3) aren’t revisited to check for accuracy. After all, “if you can’t measure something, you can’t improve it.”

A Better Way

In the corn example, they realized that they needed to start by asking the right question. For starters, “rally” needed to be better defined. What corn price were they even talking about? What time frame – a month from now or a year from now?

Perhaps not surprisingly, when presented with a question that’s ambiguous, people usually answer with statements like “it’s possible” or “maybe” or “it could happen”… but they might not even be addressing what the other person was *really* asking.

As CIA intelligence analyst Sherman Kent’s research pointed out quite starkly back in 1964, this type of discourse is not meaningful, no matter if you are debating the likelihood of potential military action (in Kent’s case) or fluctuations in commodity markets.

Over time, Brent and David discovered tools and concepts from authors like KahnemanTetlock, and Johnson that changed how we thought about decision making.  In the process, they learned how to make incremental improvements in the way they thought about these kinds of questions and how they analyzed uncertainties impacting agriculture.

Brent and David started regularly e-mailing each other with confidence-based forecasts. They felt like they were communicating better than ever about their expectations, which led to more insightful discussions. But eventually, new problems emerged… namely, general e-mail chaos from too many conversation threads.

There had to be a better way to track, monitor, and compare forecasts over time. Eventually, what started as a communication problem for Brent and David has the Ag Forecast Network.

Get Started Today

AFN is a decision-tool available only to AEI Premium members. In addition to the AFN tool, members also have access to exclusive content; including a clearinghouse of curated resources that are specific to the questions at hand. Perhaps most importantly, AFN provides instant feedback so users can see how their expectations measure up, and how their forecasts have changed over time.

AEI Premium and the AFN tool are 100% user-funded. The data that AFN’s community sees and shares on the network is unbiased and secure. Click below to start your free trial (no credit card required).