Conscious consumption, agtech and the rise of the freelance worker will continue to rapidly transform how people earn a living in the agriculture sector.
The Government, industry and media are jumping behind the idea of a Dining Boom and hoping to see Australian agriculture grow from a 60 to 100 Billion Dollar industry by 2030. Ambitious! But why not? Australia has a strong international reputation for clean green food and with the global population set to reach 8.5 billion people by 2030, the world will need to produce more food while becoming more efficient with production, transportation and waste.
With the average age of agriculture sector workers in Australia reaching 56 and a huge percentage of farmland set to change hands in the next decade, there has never been a more exciting time to get started on a career pathway into agriculture.
The Big three:
In the coming three part blog series we will unpack the big three macro forces influencing rapid change in agricultural employment and careers. The meteoric rise of the conscious consumer and an ever increasing demand for clean, ethical and sustainable food is shifting the way farmers engage with customers, AgTech and robotics will transform the types of jobs available and the rise of the freelance worker will create a new breed of ag-entrepreneurs.
The locavore, farm-to-table and ethical eating movements are here to stay...
1. Conscious Consumption
It’s a hot topic on the agenda for Australia’s agriculture sector industry groups, how to adapt to and capitalise on the rising global demand for clean, ethical and sustainably produced food? Part 1 of our blog series will delve into what this means for the future of agriculture employment and farm work in Australia.
Whether you are fond of organic farming or not, you can't deny the fact that demand is going nowhere but up. As the ever more aware and connected consumer base of millennials march towards being the largest consumer demographic, we will see ever higher expectations for transparency, ethics and environmental sustainability in food production.
Also, as Australia continues to lose any hope of competing on lowest-price in the large commodity markets, with the likes of Russia and Brazil, the Australian agriculture sector will continue to focus on premium production. Premium production means a need to attract premium prices.
This will mean that ag talent of the future is going to need to have a multitude of new baseline skills; namely regenerative farming techniques (a.k.a. sustainable, biological, organic, biodynamic, no-till, carbon farming and all the rest), direct marketing, social media and community management expertise.
If the mainstream Beef industry are worried, it’s probably time to take it seriously!
Try finding a drone pilot out the back of Goondawindi...
2. Agtech & Robotics
We’ve heard it before, technology is going to create a revolution in agriculture. Part 2 of our blog series will explore what this means for aspiring ag talent. Will the robots take our jobs (we doubt it, but it makes a great headline), will we be able to attract young people to live in rural Australia and can we increase productive capacity of this dry land?
While robotics takes centre stage in the mainstream media, there are also huge advances going on in terms of digital tools to manage farms more efficiently, directly sell produce to consumers and reduce input costs. Whether revolution or evolution is the right word remains to be seen, but one thing is certain; robotics and rapidly advancing agricultural technology will demand a whole new skillset for future job seekers and freelancers.
Given the existing nationwide shortage of skilled agricultural talent, our prediction is that agtech will open the door to whole new cohort of tech savvy young farmers, technicians and contractors. Who else is going to fix the drones?
Don’t get angry about the fact that employers aren’t giving out golden tickets, get yourself skilled up and embrace the opportunity!
3. The freelance economy
The mainstream education model of completing study and then getting a job for life is dead. Employment of the future will involve managing part time work and multiple contracts simultaneously. Lifelong self-directed learning pathways will support ever changing careers. The final segment of our blog series will unpack types of agricultural employment for the future.
Currently, there is a lot of controversy around the Uber-isation of the global workforce. Sometimes referred to as 'gig economy' platforms, these businesses charge a fee for connecting an employer to a contractor looking for work (with their own ABN). These platforms are often accused of treating people like products and ignoring duty of care to workers. Obviously society wants to avoid a race-to-the-bottom price war on labour supply, hence there is a bit of a stink going on while we come to a fair middle ground.
Some exciting new talent platforms out there are leading the way by directly employing workers and treating platform users more like team members. Meanwhile as the mega platforms like Uber continue to make for great sensational headlines, the trend towards short term and contract based employment started long ago in Australia, and it's only a matter of time before more ethical platforms make contract work easier than ever.
Employees (if that word even exists) in the future will likely navigate 5 different careers and juggle a portfolio of temp, part-time and contract jobs. This will mean learning how to become an ag-entrepreneur with a quiver of different skills and experiences gathered over a lifetime of learning.
If there was ever a time to be optimistic and excited about the future of an ag career, it's right now.
At Farmfolk we exist to get more people working in agriculture, for a season or a lifetime. We understand that this means adapting to a rapidly changing world of work, particularly influenced in the coming years by conscious consumption, Agtech and the freelance economy.
How to adapt? We think that to find a career in agriculture you will need to embark on a flexible, self-directed and lifelong learning journey. Tune in over the next few months to learn more.
Article by Lachy Ritchie, May 2018, Cover Photo by Alex Vans-Colina.