How do we make Agriculture more attractive for the next generation?

The agricultural industry’s landscape has evolved dramatically over the last 50 years; with advances in machinery and technology expanding the scale, speed and productivity of farm equipment. 

But, Agriculture is now at a critical point in its evolution. 

Growing demand for innovative and sustainable farming practices coupled with emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, analytics, connected sensors, mechanical automation and biochemical technology present a unique opportunity for revolutionary change in the industry’s physical makeup. 

With so much potential, it’s such a shame that there’s not enough young people ready and willing to make that change a reality. 

AgriFuture’s Australia estimates that Australia is facing a demand vs supply challenge with advertisements for 3,000 to 4,000 agricultural jobs each year and universities producing only 800 to 900 graduates to fill these positions.

But, with issues as important as food security knocking on Australia’s front door, getting more young people involved in the industry is absolutely crucial. 

So, how do we get young people excited about agriculture?

Murda Lighting Director, Rodney Manwaring thinks the way to get more young people involved is to follow three key steps:

1 - Change perceptions

2 - Challenge the status quo

3 - Chase freedom

Changing perceptions

Traditionally, individuals who pursued careers in agriculture sought a quiet, easy life on the land, surrounded by paddocks, animals and tractors. But the ever-expanding fields in agriculture and agritech offer so much more than this ‘traditional’ avenue.

‘Farming is not what it used to be,’ said Rod. 

‘It’s now a multi-billion dollar industry that incorporates some of the newest and most innovative technology there is.

‘Add to that soaring demand for workers who are attracting extremely high paying salaries and you find that agriculture is quickly becoming a field of interest and therefore growing and changing rapidly.’

From agronomy to engineering, to freight management to livestock trading, the agricultural industry offers a broad range of career paths that challenge old perceptions of what agriculture really is. 

Challenging the Status Quo

At the same time as the fields in agriculture are expanding, even traditional farmers are beginning to change their approaches towards their management to create more profitable and large-scale businesses.  

‘If you’re a young person in agriculture and you’re not challenging the status quo - you’re not trying new technologies or new systems or expanding into different commodities or markets - you simply won’t keep up,’ said Rod. 

‘For us, it’s about diversifying our operation so that we can manage droughts and floods as more of a seasonal challenge rather than a catastrophic event that derails our entire operation. 

‘Rising inflation and input costs are tightening our margins so it’s more important than ever for us to be planning ahead and really looking at ways we can be minimizing risks.’

‘A huge part of that is diversifying our farming operation and also looking at off-farm investments,’ said Rod. 

Chasing freedom 

When attempting to find ways to make farming more attractive for the next generation, Rod says that it’s important to look at the issue as a small part of a global trend towards the ‘freedom lifestyle’ that many young people are chasing. 

‘Young people today have a broad range of skill sets and have discovered that the traditional way of working hard doesn’t necessarily make you more money.

‘As technology rapidly changes the nature of how we work and our skill sets become broader, young people are less likely to enter into a farming business that isn’t profitable or is very one-dimensional and slow moving.’ 

‘We need to find ways to inspire them to think bigger when it comes to farming, and to think outside the box,’ he said. 

To build on the idea of inspiring young people to challenge old perceptions, he began building ‘MURDA Lighting.’

‘The thing about MURDA is that it’s not just about the lights - we’ve built a community that are all saying ‘hey, I’m tired of working my 9-5 and getting no where, I’m going to start working night shifts and getting serious about making my business more efficient and more profitable so that I have more time for family.’

‘That’s what we love about it - the community that you build and the mates that you make.’ 

‘After all - farming is and always has been a community-based thing - everyone helps each other out and we are all in it for the same reasons with very similar goals.’ 

‘I think if we can help promote farming, and agriculture in general, as a forward-thinking, fun, fast-track to wealth then young people will be very interested,’ said Rod.