Imagine the farmer of today. If you’re picturing an older, hardier, salt-of-the-earth type, that mental picture is on the cusp of disappearing. How we eat and what we eat is shifting towards locally-grown produce grown by smaller, non-corporate farms — and who we get that food from is changing, too. That’s right, farming tech is a big thing now, and it’s impacting our globe in a great way.
According to the 2012 Agricultural Census, about 8 percent of America’s 3.2 million farmers are Millennials. That might not sound like a lot, but consider what that means for the current demographics — recently, the average American farmer was 50 and looking towards retirement. Now, more and more farmers under the age of 35 are hitting the fields, and 69 percent of them have college degrees, according to the latest Agricultural Census. These newcomers are members of a small, but growing, tribe of young people who want to break free of the nine-to-five and become reconnected with the earth. Oh, and they’re interested in growing crops that are both nutritionally dense and economically sustainable. One of their allies? You guessed it, farming tech (there are those words again).
Farming And New Tech
Millennials and new technology go hand-in-hand, and they’re both helping bring agriculture back to its local roots and introduce farming tech that helps food grow better and more productively. For example, tomato growers in California now use GPS technology and sensors to monitor the state of their plants, allowing these sensors to properly water plants, dispelling both the risk of a plant dying from lack of proper watering and potentially wasting water. Others have developed apps to let them keep an eye on the temperature of their greenhouses to ensure they don’t get too hot and fall apart.
Even those who aren’t directly out picking carrots or tending to cows are getting involved. “Ag tech” is a developing industry currently worth about $1.5 billion, according to Tech Crunch. It hopes to produce AI that could lower costs through increased automation, as well as create natural ways to boost crop production that are healthier for the plants and better for the environment. This opposes the old way, where big corporations used pesticides like Monsanto on plants.
Farming Is Getting Smarter
Of course, a few Millennial farmers are still turning to classical technology, with others keeping it super old school. Some use horses to tend fields instead of tractors, while others use hand-operated wheel hoes. It’s out of practicality, it’s out of economic need, it’s out of concern for greenhouse gas emissions, but the new generation of farmers is proving that you don’t go retro for the Instagram — you do it for a cleaner world.
These agricultural entrepreneurs want to remind us that, yes, prices might be a bit higher for organic produce, but the benefits are well worth the extra cost. Organic farming limits toxic chemicals, which can, potentially, improve everything from animal health to soil quality to carbon emissions. Adopting such practices creates ecological sustainability, which support the environment, the economy and ourselves. So let’s hear it for all this farming tech changing the way things are getting done, huh?
Lead image via Getty