The Future of Agriculture
By: Dolores Sauter
Growing up in the Chicago suburbs, I've always said my closest tie to agriculture probably started, and ended, with my love of cheese.
In the three years I've been recruiting Animal Agricultural professionals, I have learned a great deal. I've gained a unique perspective on the challenges that hiring authorities, candidates and the Ag community face.
Through these interactions, I have developed several thoughts and theories about the future of the industry. To test these, we recently surveyed over 150 Animal Scientists and Animal Nutritionists in my network. This article will be the first in a series centered around the future of Animal Agriculture, utilizing data from the responses we received.
As stated in multiple sources, it is estimated that over the next 30 years the world's population will increase by 2 billion people to 9.7 billion in 2050. In preparation, we must find ways to bolster food production by almost 70% globally and do so, nutritiously, with existing land and water resources. Frankly, the fact that most of the population is unaware or indifferent to this is as big a challenge as any.
The face of agriculture is changing. Small family farms are giving way to large industrial operations. Ag technology is revolutionizing the way that producers collect and utilize data, the way they harvest their fields, how they milk their cows and clean their barns. Generally, consumers are very uninformed about agriculture and the supply chain for their food. Yet, all too often, they make fanatical demands about things they don’t truly understand! Scientific advances are moving at the speed of light. For example, we now understand how microscopic changes in the genetic makeup of an animal can affect the entire population and our progeny – it’s mind-blowing.
I believe the future is bright. I have the privilege of speaking with so many ambitious individuals who, each in their own way, are leading the charge. Nutritionists researching alternative ingredients to feed our animals, managing health and welfare with fewer antibiotics. Horticulturists finding new ways to grow crops indoors, vertically and year-round. Engineers who design RAS operations and allow Midwesterners to enjoy fresh Atlantic Salmon. Geneticists who can eliminate the gene for horns in cattle, eradicating the need for dehorning.
But we need to fuel this revolution with bright new minds. We need to educate our youth on the amazing careers available to them in Agriculture. According to our survey, over 67% of Animal Ag professionals grew up on a farm or in a rural area. Only 19% of the U.S. population lives in rural America. How do we reach the other 80%? Every single person on this planet has a need to eat - let's get them involved!
More than 70% of our respondents said that they were confident in the future of the Ag industry; that they “believe in the fortitude of the people in Agriculture and know that we will continue to be resilient and overcome these challenges." So, let's talk about sustainability, technology, alternative protein, succession planning, generation gap, new graduate readiness, and finding the next generation. I invite you to come along with me on this journey over the next several months. I look forward to hearing your opinions and, personally, finding new ways to be part of the future of Agriculture.