22 July, 2015
Youth needed to take agriculture into new era of cross-industry integration
By: Nico Groenewald | 16 Jul 2015 08:16
"Opportunities for changing the game will rival that of the
information technology sector." - Nico Groenewald, Head of Agribusiness
at Standard Bank.
Picture:hfossmark via pixabay.com
Although not necessarily as obvious, the pervasive influence of
agriculture on society is creating an entirely new and glamorous view of
the sector that will attract the pioneering energies of young people
looking for careers as enticing as those in information technology.
ways in which technology and social media have changed consumer
expectations and the nature of the products and services they aspire to
have, triggered a ripple effect in agriculture.
Wherever you touch the world...
For instance, the
convenience that social media delivers is now being copied in the energy
sector, where petrol stations carry fresher produce than many
supermarkets. In order to match that freshness, supermarkets are
re-examining their logistics and cold chains.
The traditional way of
bringing produce from outlying districts to a central distribution
centre and then sending it all the way out again, often to where it was
harvested, for sale in supermarkets, is proving not only costly but
detrimental to shelf quality.
Satellite technology is now being
installed in tractors and other farm equipment in order for farmers to
more accurately measure and monitor soil quality and, therefore, crop
Green and renewable energy are being applied to farming
operations not only to reduce energy costs but in response to society's
demands for sustainable production in all sectors. However, the green
and renewable industries are still evolving, leaving plenty of
pioneering work to be done.
The debates raging on social media
about the merits, or otherwise, of genetic modification of seeds and
organic farming methodologies are not only making consumers more
particular about what they buy but how it is labelled. This calls for
much more astute production and packaging.
issues in both the political and social domain are making local research
into indigenous and heritage crops essential to the sustainability of
These and other issues are bringing
agriculture out of its perceived sector isolation and meshing it tightly
and very directly with consumer lifestyle requirements well beyond what
gets cooked for dinner tonight. And they are moving agriculture's
economic contribution to GDP, for instance, far beyond the relatively
narrow criteria of employment in and foreign exchange generated by the
Agriculture now has the potential to boost employment
across multiple sectors, many of them unexpected. As just one example,
growth in the logistics sector can be predicated on the ability to move
fresh produce more efficiently. Also, if fresh thinking can be brought
to bear on turning South Africa into a net exporter rather than a net
importer of processed agricultural products, entirely new industries can
be created - bringing with them an influx of foreign capital.
in the technology and research sectors can create more effective ways
for South African conditions to be put to work to increase volume and
quality of outputs. In other words, modern agriculture places almost no
limits on people who wish to make an impact on the way the world works.
Agriculture is no longer about planting crops or running herds of
cattle. It's about satisfying and successful careers in all sorts of
human activity linked to agriculture.
A new generation
tipping point in the sector comes at a time when established farmers
and agribusiness operators are beginning to age out of the market. Our
own internal research matches those of external agencies in showing that
the majority of commercial farmers in South Africa are in their
fifties. Only some 8% are younger than 35. To some extent, the flow of
new entrants to the sector is being diminished by uncertainties
regarding sector policies. We understand that legislators are aware that
decisions on policies need to be accelerated and must have economic
benefits for all stakeholders.
Another entry barrier, the severe
drought that has plagued parts of the country for some years, is
temporary. It's just a matter of time before the weather changes. Still,
the drought - and the weather in general - is another uncertainty. Our
established producers have been on the land long enough to know that
farming is a long-term activity that calls for financial and emotional
endurance. We need our experienced farmers to focus on what they have
always done best, which is getting mother nature to deliver her bounty.
although many of them are innovating, becoming tech savvy, and getting
involved both up and downstream of their own operations, we must close
the gap that is growing between those who have been on the land for
generations and those coming out of school now.
Y, now between the ages of 18 and 24, has been raised on technology
innovation and has an appetite for new ideas in general. These young
people understand and relish interconnectedness. They are socially
minded. They want to make a difference. Best of all, they don't all
necessarily want to be information technology whizzes. As long as
they're doing something special that benefits the world in general, they
will be happy in careers in logistics, retailing, green energy,
research, and whatever business disciplines that have yet been invented
that will impact agriculture.
All we need to do is show them that agriculture is about planting the seeds of the future - in whatever form feels good to you.