Exponential population growth, resource scarcity, and climate change. Developments in technology, internationalization, transparency, and well-being. In today's world their are several different influences that both positively and negatively affect our society, and farming is not exempt from them. So, with these influences in mind what might the farmers of the future look like?
After analysing contemporary farmers’ motivations, fears, and expectations, both the European Commission and Aimpoint Research in the US depicted and speculated what some possible features of farming in 2040 could be.
With this series of blog posts, we would like to explore the current farming landscape, the potential challenges and opportunities farmers may face, and where their choices could lead them.
Before making predictions about the future, it is necessary to understand the current situation that farmers face. With this in mind, the studies on farmers of the future mentioned above focused on three main criteria:
- The farmers' goals for farming, such as growth orientation and the approach towards innovation or tradition.
- Their business models, including brand loyalty, financial health and their tendency towards networks and associations.
- Their education and skills, as farmers’ business intelligence quotient and open-mindedness.
From this research twelve profiles stemmed, six of which were more current and already established within the farming society, and six which were niche and upcoming.
- Adaptive. Thanks to solid knowledge and high business IQ, these Enterprising Business Builder farmers aim to make best use of their farms' resources, maximising their profit and adapting to new demands.
Diversification and expansion are thus pillars of this business model, based on finding the best practices and collaborations that could make their farm grow sustainably, such as cooperatives and the circular bioeconomy.
- Intensive. A smart, product-oriented category that maximises profit by producing agricultural goods of the highest quality through sustainable intensification, expansion, and efficiency innovation.
Accordingly, these Independent Elites use yield to enhance technology and equipment, not only gaining control over resources and environment, but also competitive advantage.
- Patrimonial. This category, composed by Self-Reliant Traditional and Classic Practitioner farmers, perceives the farm, usually small/medium sized, as heritage from previous generations, to pass on to next ones.
Motivated by an “as-is-has-always-been-done” approach, they strive to maintain current operation, being prudent towards innovation, particularly attached to animals and crops, and achieving sufficient profit to make a living.
- Recreational. These farmers consider land as leisure and recreational activity, without profit or expansion expectations, and use resources efficiently.
For instance, crops or grasslands are given to animals as feed, while their manure is used to fertilize fields.
- Semi-subsistence. Farming is here labour intensive and considered as a means of subsistence and for household consumption.
This Leveraged Lifestyle status is a consequence of both external factors hindering farmers’ success, such as job or main income earner loss, and lack of expertise and business IQ.
- Corporate. These farmers are managers with agricultural education, perceiving farming as a business unit, whose role is adapted to the overall corporate strategy.
The business model includes maximising efficiency, while reducing costs through organizational innovation.
- Regenerative. This profile aims at a sustainable food system through a regenerative farming, considered part of nature.
Farmers thus protect natural resources and develop alternative food networks through agroecology, which strives to reduce the environmental impact, increase the output quantity and quality, as well as manage pests more efficiently.
- Social farming. Farm activity is here considered an array of care activities, useful to improve the wellbeing of communities.
Accordingly, this business model entails ethical motivations, and farming is organic and agroecology oriented.
- Lifestyle. This category is composed by people who improve life quality by moving to rural areas, contributing to their development.
As new entrants to farming, they do not have any agricultural education, but implement an entrepreneurial business model, capitalizing on urban networks through a consumer-oriented innovation.
- Urban micro-farming. The aim is to embed sustainable food production in cities, therefore the business model includes urban-based activities, such as microfarms and permacultures, that rely on consumer-oriented innovation.
- Indoor. Engineer and scientist entrepreneurs aiming to develop agtech start-ups, potentially disrupting the current agricultural model, for their high productivity and technological innovation.
Through the combination of agriculture, engineering and technology, controlled environment agriculture allows indoor growing crop production all year round, without chemicals.
- Biotech start-up. In this case, the objective of scientist and engineer entrepreneurs is developing biotechnological processes to produce food without farming.
The business model includes scientific innovation and culturing techniques to manufacture products, typically obtained from livestock farming.
Along with outlining contemporary farmers’ goals and business, this first analysis showed important drivers of change for farming, such as sustainability, the need to face a growing demand, innovation and technology, as well as social well-being.
These factors will be essential in identifying those long-term megatrends affecting farming activity in the next decades and described in the next episode. Stay up to date to discover what the future of farming will be!