The Agri-Food industry is one of the brightest industries for prospective youths looking for fulfilling employment and careers. Despite discouraging youth employment prospects globally, the Agri-Food industry is one of the few seeing significant industry and job-growth, especially in the Agtech sector.
A bird’s eye view of the of the global environment for the youth job market at least indicates that it’s not a result of our youth’s not succeeding in an ever increasingly competitive environment. In fact, it is actually a natural result of certain imbalances resulting from several transitions happening globally. Technology is replacing a lot of jobs, and while that opens up opportunities for new employment, at least to date, those new opportunities haven’t kept pace with technology’s automation of so many job types across numerous industries. Even critical thinking jobs that used to require years of advanced education such as doctors and lawyers are being significantly reduced. IBM’s Watson can now do the job of litigation research better than humans and lawyers are starting to become irrelevant outside of special cases like arguing in the court room. Devices are set to hit the market in the coming years that will allow people to diagnose and assess their health across hundreds of test parameters better and more cheaply than any doctor.
However, there is one industry where growing technology is not leading to declining jobs, but instead job growth. And that is the Agri-Food industry. This was recently highlighted by the Youth Engagement Event held alongside the World Agriculture Forum in Singapore earlier this month.
There are a couple of factors for this. First and foremost is the facts cited by all in the food industry, we are facing another billion mouths to feed in the next ten years and 9.6 billion overall by 2050. So there is a need for more producers, distributors, value-adders and more in the industry just to meet that demand. In addition, due to climate change, poor practices, aging farmers, diminishing natural resources there is a huge demand for solutions that allow us to grow more efficiently, grow in untraditional environments, and grow using far fewer resources while still increasing outputs per square foot. Scientists, inventors, programmers, entrepreneurs and much more will be needed in the coming years to help address and solve these issues and concerns.
More work will also be needed in developing and prototyping all these applications of digital technologies to agriculture. From drones that can monitor fields for pests, weeds, and disease, to crop analytics platforms to help farmers calibrate their inputs to maximize production efficiency and profits, to the restaurants, grocery stores, delivery services that are all going to have to pop up to serve the increasing (urbanized) populations of the future.
While agriculture is showing strong prospects for job growth, it will not be the savior for overall declining jobs across almost all major industries. That being said it still poses a very positive option for youth and others to find stability and options for growth in an industry that’s not going to be erased by robots or other technology. As long as there are people we will need food and we will need the
infrastructure and industry to provide us with that. With infrastructure and industry comes the need for humans to work on it. In the Agri-Food industry, the Agtech sector offers the most exciting opportunities. We are at the nascency period of Smart-Agriculture, the opportunities in data analytics, automation, software and application development, systems engineering, robotics and more all offer significant opportunities within the Agri-Food industry.
Investments into curriculum development that’s focused on a STEAM approach, or Science, Technology, Engineering, Agriculture, and Math would be setting up our youth to be capable and succeed in all the associated growing job sectors of the Agri-Food industry; and especially in Ag-Tech. In addition to K-12 curriculum development, higher education programs and apprenticeship programs would provide the necessary pathway for interested youth to get into the industry through a path for scaling success.