With a mixture of idealism and a thirst for adventure, I moved from my home in Haifa to Kibbutz Hatzerim, located in the Negev desert of Israel. I felt a deep connection to the land and so, in 1964, at the tender age of 20, I set out with a small group of my peers to help make the barren Israeli desert bloom. Despite facing multiple obstacles, including water scarcity, saline soil, and poor yields, we were excited by new technological innovations that would help us achieve our goals. There was a will and there were tools – together, we would find a way.
However, it seems that today’s youth is not as interested in farming as we were. Half of the farmers in America are 55 years old or older, and the average age of farmers in sub-Saharan Africa is roughly 60 years old. Today, the youth are deterred from the back-breaking work of farming, and its associated challenges: poor access to land, rising land costs, relative unprofitability and limited agricultural knowledge. Not surprisingly, most are attracted by the allure of higher paying and less laborious work in the cities. This is true for farmers in countries across the globe.
Luckily, we live in an era of rapid digital innovation. Advancements in farming technologies are helping farmers make better, smarter, and more efficient decisions and making farming more profitable per acre. This is beginning to attract a new generation of tech-savvy entrepreneurs.
The modern, “digitized" farmer’s day looks very different from that of his father and grandfather’s. Instead of waking up at the crack of dawn and heading out to the fields for hours of tedious labor, he can glance at his smartphone, check updated data on his crops and, with the swipe of a finger adjust irrigation, fertigation and other farming activities. Sweating it out in the fields is a far rarer, and increasingly distant echo of the way my career in the world of agriculture began.
Technologies like fertigation that administer precise amount of fertilizers through irrigation systems are enabling farm laborers to transition into more managerial roles, an exciting prospect. For example, in Africa, the mechanization of sugar cane production relieves the physical load placed on sugarcane farmers, making the field more attractive to the younger generation. Similarly, mechanization innovations like tractors, seeders and planters etc., are enabling young farmers achieve higher yields with less labor.
The younger generation is tech savvy and efficient. They actively seek solutions that are data-driven, time and energy efficient, while enabling maximum benefit. Elsewhere around the world other technological innovations, such as precise agriculture and drip irrigation, are generating a buzz among young, future farmers. Over the years, advances in drip irrigation technology have enabled an even greater degree of precision and control in both water and nutrient delivery for growing crops and elevating farmers above the poverty line.
Technology is making farming not only viable, but also attractive to youth. Which innovation will get their fancy next? Only time will tell, but I’m sure Netafim’s latest cutting-edge technologies , such as precision irrigation and digital farming solutions, will play an important role in up-and-coming agro-tech development