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The future of farmers: evolution or revolution? Part 3 - Farmers in 2040

In the previous episode we outlined the several factors driving change in contemporary farming. At this point, we will discover where the different megatrends could lead us: so without further ado let’s meet some potential farmers of the future.

As the megatrends described in the previous post, the future farming should be more environmentally sustainable, more technological, and extremely adaptive, due to both volatile demand and pressures from climate change.

Consumers, instead, will look for better quality, variety, and experiences, although it is likely that food prices will continue to be the ultimate factor affecting and influencing selection.

The European Commission and Aimpoint Research’ studies on farmers of the future, explored how contemporary farming could evolve under the influence of those social, technological, environmental, economic, and political megatrends previously mentioned, and the following profiles emerged. Each one of them responds to specific challenges.

Four profiles stem from well-established features of European agriculture, evolving with changes in digitalization, bio-technologies and evolution of markets and consumption patterns.

 

 

  • Adaptive. Curious, open, networked, and resourceful, this farmer strives to make best use of the farms resources, diversifying the offer according to the demand. This approach leads to creating niches with global customers.
    Nevertheless, excessive diversification could hinder coherence, making networks less stable. The farm is multifunctional and is run by independent business partners, who aim to provide customers with a meaningful and sustainable experience around food. In fact, its production is considered complementary to entertainment and bioeconomy, combining activities in favour of resource efficiency.
  • Corporate. In this case, the farmer is a manager, perceiving the farm as a corporate business unit, indispensable to provide ingredients for final products. He aims at providing low-cost foods with good quality standards for healthy and affordable diets. The farm is highly automated, and its management requires different skills:
    - People management.
    - Negotiation. 
    - A constantly updated agricultural knowledge.

    The approach to environmental issues depends on consumer trends, meaning that if the demand for healthy products increases the Corporate will ask for sustainability certifications.
  • Intensive. An innovative, independent farmer who perceives profit as the main business driver. His farm is specialized in producing low-cost commodity products for global supply chains.
    Intensive farmers rely on precision farming, that requires:
    - A high degree of technology and automatization.
    - A profound understanding of agriculture, to maximize resource efficiency.
    - Regular advisor consultancy.

    Along with technical and environmental knowledge, this profession implies entrepreneurial, negotiation and financial skills. Production is certified, responding to market requirements and transparency, while crops variety and livestock breeds selected are the most efficient in terms of nutrition and environmental adaptation. Competitiveness and synthetic production could threaten this business model in 2040 landscape.
  • Patrimonial. Despite the changes affecting the sector, this farmer does not have either means or motivation to modify the business model. The latter remains focused on traditional activities and aimed at making sufficient profit to survive.

 

 The following profiles, instead, could potentially disrupt current balance in farming, as they require an extremely innovative degree of technology.

 

  • Controlled Environment. This farmer provides fresh, customized ingredients, produced all year long through Controlled Environment Agriculture, which requires:
    - LED lights.
    - Automation.
    - Technology.
    - Communication to secure public funding and acceptance.

    Farming activity is local, adaptable to changing demand and focused on circular bioeconomy. The latter is ensured using renewable resources, lean manufacturing, and resource efficiency.
    This farming model highly depends on city infrastructure and thus competes with Urban farmers, presented in the next episode.
  • Cell. A biotech entrepreneur farmer, who aims to create synthetic protein-based ingredients. This approach represents an alternative to agriculture and livestock production, with minor impact on environment and animal health. Furthermore, the focus on circular bioeconomy allows more resource efficiency. Within this farm model, the R&D department is the most labour intensive, while production and processing are fully automated. Besides having entrepreneurial skills, the cell farmer should be flexible and agile enough to recognize new business opportunities that ensure a better response to consumer needs.

 

These profiles were only a part of 2040 farming landscape. In particular, those introduced in this episode are predominantly linked to digitalization, economy, and biotechnology advancements.

In the following post, instead, we shift our focus on how social and cultural megatrends will presumably affect future farming habits. Don’t miss it!

 

Sources:

 

Date: 09 June 2021

  • Summary:
    What will the future farmer look like? Read our latest blog and find out!