December 4, 2018 Steve Babin & Praveen Penmetsa
Human progression has forever been linked to our ability to find ways to more efficiently feed ourselves. From hunter gatherer to agrarian to industrial and networked, each advancement in civilization has been led by technological advancements in agriculture.
For a historical perspective, in the United States in 1870, nearly 50% of the population was employed in agriculture. Today that number is under 2%. During the middle of the industrial revolution, there was still one worker in agriculture for every other employee in the work force. A series of global famines lead to immense focus on agricultural efficiency and application of technology in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Currently, roughly 1 employee in agriculture can feed 50 people.
However, the need for farmers can never completely disappear. As the world population increases and global food demand skyrockets, the need for higher and better food production is increasing while the margin for error is decreasing with limited arable land. Our food producers have always been at the mercy of nature. Drought, flood, heat, cold, pests, and disease are only a few of the natural phenomenon farmers have had to contend with for millennia. In addition, farmers today are facing challenges that no other generation of farmers have had to face.
Tackling modern day challenges is where the farmer is less equipped or in some cases, not at all. The world is seeing an overall urban migration at a rate never seen before. The labor force which farmers have relied upon lately is slowly aging and disappearing as rural communities “advance” through their agrarian phase. Urban service economies are creating high paying, high-tech jobs, leaving employment in the agricultural industry looking unexciting and unprofitable. Non-GMO and organic movements are stripping farmers of their historical weapons against nature. A focus on urban economies and urban service industries has led to government policies artificially driving up labor wages without consideration to its impact on farming communities, thus adding a new challenge in an always price driven commodity market. Other resources that feed farming, such as and especially water, are now a regulated, debated, and increasingly expensive resource. The rate of global civilization advancement coupled with the above societal shifts has left the farmer technologically behind.
The list could go on.
All of the above has resulted in farming communities feeling threatened and marginalized at a time when we need them most. Quoting one of our clients – “…we feel like we have a target on our backs.”
There is a new movement that is countering the above, farmers and farming communities are beginning to take control of the future and pool their resources to fund the innovation they need. A major impediment has been a lack of familiarity with complex technology development at a global scale. The technology companies that do engage with farmers have ignored the generational knowledge and insights that rests with farmers and hence have failed in providing the needed advancements. Several technology companies have taken advantage of farmers whether through data rights, usage/modification restrictions, or limiting revenue trickle down to farmers. Some companies have engaged in all of these and more.
This has led to audacious farmers engaging companies like Motivo, to develop their needed solutions. Motivo’s unique commercial arrangements allows farmers and farming communities to leverage their insights by encapsulating them into unique services and products for deployment not just on their farms but globally. Early adopters and visionaries in agriculture are seeing a world of opportunity with new innovations leading to intellectual property and new revenue streams.
This is just the beginning and unless we apply the kind of societal focus and resources applied to other global challenges, our next generation will be re-introduced to the word “famine”, a word that has largely disappeared from the public vernacular. Unlike previous famines, this time around our society antipathy towards farmers and farming would be the primary cause.
In our upcoming blogs we shall examine additional ways to overcome the highlighted food security challenges and accelerate a future where farming is viewed as an exciting and profitable profession globally.
A future where society has advanced by taking the next giant leap in agriculture.
Steve Babin is a Product Manager at Motivo who grew up working on and around farms in rural Northern Idaho where he now resides. After 12 years working in aerospace maintenance, production, and R&D, Steve joined Motivo after noticing the work they were doing in the AgTech space.
Praveen Penmetsa is the CEO and founder of Motivo Engineering.
Motivo Engineering is an innovation engineering firm headquartered in California, USA and has executed numerous projects in mobility, aerospace and AgTech. Motivo’s unique innovation framework and phased product development approach has reduced the risk in transformative product development for audacious visionaries. Motivo projects range from innovation and intellectual property development to low volume manufacturing of these transformative products. Several Motivo clients are now leveraging these technology solutions for additional future revenue through licensing or by selling these unique products.
Motivo will be at the 2019 World Ag Expo, February 12-14 at the International Agri-Center in Tulare.