How technology is tackling the problem of aging in agriculture

Expressed opinions Entrepreneur Contributors are their own.

Here is a statistic you need to keep awake at night. The average age of an American farmer is about 60 years.


Now, think about what this means for our food. As farmers age out of work and enter fewer cases, we run the risk of becoming more dependent on long and complex supply chains that contribute to climate change and exorbitant prices. From Kenya to Kansas, it has been a growing problem for decades, as young people in rural areas have left home to pursue careers outside of family farms, and fewer people have left to fill the void.

But even as the average age of an American farmer approaches retirement, there is hope on the horizon. Faced with climate change, a population crisis and a growing population, farmers are investing in sustainable technologies to keep trade afloat – and attracting a new generation of talent in the process.

Related: Why Revolutionary Agriculture Should Be The Next Space Race

Knowledge workers are getting a place in the field

Farmers are feeling the pinch as fewer people enter the profession. They are forced to do more to feed a growing population with less labor, less input and more dramatic weather.

Take, for example, Mike Rigby – a fourth-generation rancher in Utah who regularly goes to the cattle auction on weekends and sees 80-year-old ranchers standing in line to sell their cattle. They had two problems: they were fighting a historic drought to keep their cattle alive, and they lacked successors to occupy their farms. In an effort to avoid the same consequences, Rigby focuses on in-house growing technology to stabilize the source of his feed and give his kids the hope of one day an effective operation.

Rugby is not an isolated example. The advent of technology on farms not only stabilizes them in the immediate term, but also develops the role of the farmer in incorporating more relevant skills for a younger generation. This change may not come at a good time, as traditional methods of cultivation cannot draw top talent into the fields. Indeed, an extensive study has found that one of the main reasons why young people are reluctant to become farmers is their desire for higher education and white-collar jobs.

The good news is that as farms integrate more technology, there is a growing demand for technologists to operate systems – and there is growing interest in entering the field from Millennium and General Z.

Related: The most important key when choosing smart farming technology

The greed to solve an impossible problem

So, why is this agrarian revolution so appealing to young people? The bright mind of the simple world is always drawn to the biggest problems, and at the moment, you will be hard pressed to find a more important challenge than stabilizing food production. There is no industry in the world that permanently affects more people than agriculture. This has led to incredible innovations in agricultural technology, with global markets growing at an annual rate of about 9%, reaching an estimated $ 22.5 billion by 2026.

This has been fueled by the massive increase in ESG investment in recent years and the generational shift towards sustainability. Millennials and Gen Z, the same generation that shunned traditional farming, are fueling the technological revolution that is transforming agriculture.

Farmers, who, despite their stereotypes, are always keen on technology, are playing their part in diversifying operations, including artificial intelligence, remote sensing, IoT and more. These tools allow them to stabilize or improve their outputs while reducing reliance on inputs such as water, fertilizers and pesticides.

That diversity is creating space for completely new skills on farms, aligned with General Z’s talents and interests – a generation of digital natives driven by problem solving, sustainability and skill development. The appearance of the future farmer may be different, but the value remains the same. Feeding people is a great job and it will never be easy. The good news is that a new generation of talent is emerging, and like Rugby, they have better tools to work with.

Related: There are seven points to consider when going digital in agriculture

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