Agriculture and agrochemicals often get overlooked when people discuss the industries and fields that contribute the most to society. This is understandable. Farms have been around for literally thousands of years. As a result, it’s become easy to take them for granted. Doing so involves ignoring one key fact, though: agriculture may very well be the “backbone” of all civilization.
True, this might sound like an audacious statement to make, but upon closer inspection, it holds up.
Pre-agricultural nomadic tribes
Experts agree that, prior to the development of agriculture, humans were generally hunter-gatherers. They lived in tribes, moving from one area to another to find and consume food. This type of living left little room for art, science, medicine, or any of the countless advances and innovations that are necessary for the growth and success of a society.
It wasn’t that those pursuits served no practical purpose for pre-agricultural tribes—it was simply that the people living in those tribes didn’t have any opportunities to focus on them. It’s widely accepted that the primary reason humans formed communities to begin with was to provide for their own survival. They found that it was easier to survive if they cooperated with others who could support them. In turn, they would offer their own skills and resources to the tribe.
Everyone had a role to play, essentially. Unfortunately, in hunter-gatherer societies, those roles were limited—everyone focused on procuring food and shelter. The demand for self-preservation drove the tribe from one location to another, following the seasons. After they had exhausted the immediately available resources, they moved on. They could not put down roots, and so they could not invest any attention toward endeavors that did not support the hunter-gatherer lifestyle.
Agriculture changes everything
When humans learned that, instead of pursuing food, they could cultivate it, they had found a completely new way of life that allowed them to abandon the hunter-gatherer approach and adopt one that allowed them to remain in one place.
Although early farming was most likely not easy, it was almost certainly not as physically, mentally, and emotionally taxing as hunter-gatherer living. In addition, agriculture had another benefit: it enabled the human population to grow faster than ever before.
Farmers were able to coax more food out of the land than a hunter-gatherer could ever collect, and they could ensure a more consistent, year-round supply that wasn’t so totally dependent on the whims of nature. Agriculture also allowed for surpluses of food—and because people were sedentary, they could store their surpluses and access them during lean times, as protection against starvation. All these developments made possible a larger, healthier population.
What’s more, in an early agricultural civilization, there was now room (and more people available) to devote energy toward other pursuits, instead of simply those that allowed a tribe to most effectively travel, hunt, and forage. Those who identified the healing properties of certain foods and herbs, for example, could communicate their findings to the rest of the community, allowing them to treat others who were sick or injured; this served as the foundation for the development of medicine.
To make the most of a farm, it was important to have a strong understanding of the role the seasons played in food production, and the best conditions for plants to grow. This resulted in humans acquiring an understanding of subjects like astronomy and botany. With more free time available, members of these early societies began to look for ways in which they could keep themselves occupied. Because of this, we now have sports, theatre, literature, and all the other arts and fields that enrich our lives. While hunter-gatherer living was focused mainly on keeping people alive, agriculture was the first major development in human history that made it possible for the full scope of human activity to flourish.
It also allowed for greater cooperation among different communities. In the past, groups were competing for the few resources available in a particular area. By learning that they could grow their own food, instead of hunting it, there may have been less need to compete with others. They could instead form alliances. Over the centuries, these alliances grew into the geopolitical entities—such as cities and nations—that are familiar today.
Later on, beginning with the Industrial Revolution, agrochemicals played a major role, of course. They greatly increased the amount and quality of food a farm could produce. The advances mentioned above benefited greatly from the use of chemicals that could protect crops from disease, pests, and competing plants.
That’s why it is by no means an exaggeration to claim that agriculture and agrochemicals serve as the backbone of human civilization. Had they never been developed, humans would still be hunting for food, gathering as much of it as they could, and abandoning a region when it no longer served useful to their needs. By giving tribes the ability to grow their food instead of seeking it out, agriculture gave them the chance to truly build their societies.
As with any major industry, if you’re not directly involved, you may fall prey to misconceptions. This is especially the case with the agriculture and agrochemical industries.
Perhaps misconceptions occur because this type of work is highly specialized, but it’s not highly publicized. Since movie stars and directors are constantly in the news, many ordinary people have a reasonable familiarity with the workings of the entertainment industry. When it comes to agriculture, however, unless you are an active participant in the industry, you may not be exposed to the latest news and trends. As such, it’s reasonable that you may have misconceptions.
This blog post serves to challenge three of those misconceptions, illustrating why agricultural and agrochemical work is important and showcasing why these industries have some of the most significant potential for technological and social progress
Misconception 1: Farming Is an Archaic Industry
As has been pointed out by numerous experts and historians, agriculture is among humankind’s oldest industries. Because of this, it makes sense that some people have a tendency to regard it as an outdated practice that is no longer relevant to society as a whole.
Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. The vast majority of the food we consume is generated through farming. As any global history expert can confirm, the amount of food available to a population plays a major role in that society's development and stability.
Without farms, the world as we know it would look remarkably different from the one with which we are familiar. Quite simply, agriculture is essential to maintaining order in human society. It’s had this effect for literally thousands of years and, there’s currently no reason to suspect that it won’t continue to do so.
Misconception 2: Agriculture Is a Technologically Outdated Industry
This misconception is an extension of the one above. Just as many people assume that farms are a relic of the past, they may also assume that the farms that do still exist are stuck in the past. People who don’t keep current with the shifts and developments in major technologies may assume that farms have failed to inspire further technological progress.
Not so. The principles of precision agriculture - using advanced methods and tools to maximize crop yield - have resulted in the implementation of numerous new technologies in the effort to grow more food and to limit the amount of land that needs to be converted to farmland.
These technologies include, but are not limited to, unmanned aerial drones that monitor crop growth and potentially distribute agrochemicals; unmanned agricultural equipment that can reduce much of the human labor necessary for farming; and remote monitoring stations that alert farmers to the condition and needs of certain crops.
Those are just a few examples of how agriculture helps to move technology forward, which is beneficial to human society as a whole. Historically, when a technology is developed for one purpose, others quickly find new applications for it.
This will undoubtedly be the case with various new technologies that are currently being used in the agriculture and agrochemical industries. Right now, they help farmers to get the most out of their land (which also helps to keep people fed). However, in the future, others will find new ways to make use of these tools.
Misconception 3: Farming Is Not Intellectually Challenging
Throughout the world, there has been a stereotype of farmers as stoic laborers who work strictly with their hands, facing few if any intellectual challenges in their work. This is a strange misconception, although it’s a persistent one.
In order to make efficient use of farmland, one must have an in-depth understanding of the numerous variables which go into growing healthy, robust crops. Farmers also need to be able to understand how to use new technologies, such as those discussed above, to their best advantage.
In addition, the people actually involved in creating these and other technologies - such as newer and stronger agrochemicals - need to be highly-educated, with creative minds and a passion for innovation.
This is why how schools teach agriculture is important. Many students may not be drawn to the idea of pursuing a career in the agricultural or agrochemical industries if they believe that technology and innovation play only a minor role.
Of course, the real truth is that these industries are ideal for those seeking a job that will provide them with constant mental stimulation. Farming will continue to benefit from the brightest minds in the world, and the world as a whole will continue to benefit from farms.
Although they may seem to be niche fields, the agriculture and agrochemical industries are in fact directly linked to numerous popular interests and career paths. As history has shown, the more often talented people with unique perspectives engage with those working in the field of agriculture, the more dramatic the resulting innovations tend to be.
That’s why it’s important to continue to inform students and the public at large about the major role that agriculture and agrochemicals play in the world. By having a better understanding of how these industries interact with other seemingly unrelated fields, people will find more opportunities to share their own talents.
This list represents a mere sampling of the major industries and fields that agriculture significantly affects. In truth, because farms lay the foundation for human civilization as a whole, they touch just about every part of our lives in one way or another.
The following are just a few of the industries and interests that are tied closely to agriculture:
1. Culinary Arts
Agriculture may be nearly as old as human civilization, but farms still provide the global population with the vast majority of its food. As such, anyone with an interest in professional cooking can benefit from paying closer attention to trends within the agricultural industries. They might, for example, begin to learn more about which crops are thriving, allowing them to predict which ingredients will be easier to integrate into their dishes, and which will be less available over time.
Chefs are artists, and food is their medium. Having a more thorough understanding of how their food is produced and what steps need to be taken to maximize production will give those involved in the culinary arts a broader view of how their own industries may develop. On top of that, chefs who are able to make decisions regarding which farms to source their food from will find it easier to make these choices if they know which farming techniques and practices result in the highest crop yield.
Farmers have made use of new technologies for millennia, and if recent news is any indication, the trend shows no signs of stopping. Over the past several months and years, agriculture experts have asserted that technologies such as unmanned aerial drones, GPS navigating systems, and even robots will soon be commonplace on many farms. Many outside the industry might not realize that agriculture offers some of the most significant practical applications for these new tools.
That’s why individuals in the technology industry should pay close attention to how tech can benefit farmers. While it may be invigorating to work toward any sort of technological breakthrough, society demands that the breakthroughs that scientists devote their energies to serve a practical purpose that benefits as many members of the human population possible. By examining how these emerging technologies can revolutionize farming, tech specialists can find new ways to justify their projects and research.
It’s no secret that food is among the most important resources in the world. In the past, wars have been fought over it. The scarcity or abundance of food in a given area plays a critical role in shaping policy and determining the course of a nation’s development.
Obviously, numerous factors contribute to geopolitical conflicts. Food is just one of many. That said, politicians looking for ways in which to inspire further cooperation across the global community will find that agriculture offers unique approaches to this goal. By taking steps to increase food production—such as providing farmers with greater access to agrochemicals—politicians can help to address one of the primary causes of global conflict.
4. Environmental Science
Embracing new technologies hasn’t simply made it easier for farmers to grow more crops and make more money. By boosting the efficiency of their land, farmers have less need to convert neighboring areas into farmland. As a result, natural habitats are less likely to be disrupted.
As a result, anyone with an interest in environmental science should also focus on developments within the agriculture and agrochemical industries. If they can help to spread awareness of (and access to) farming techniques and tools that allow for greater efficiency, they can also help to preserve more of the environment. As more and more citizens of the world realize the importance of taking steps to protect the planet, people with these insights will be even more valuable to society in the coming years.
Despite being one of the oldest (if not the oldest) industries in human history, agriculture—and, by extension, agrochemicals—still plays a major role in driving progress. The reason being that, on a basic level, the food that farms create is necessary for civilization to thrive.
However, feeding the world’s population is not the only way in which agriculture promotes growth. From an economic perspective, it contributes to the proliferation of jobs, the development of new technologies, and the strength of commerce.
Obviously, all industries create jobs, and agriculture is no exception. Although many of the processes that once relied on human workers have become automated, farms have by no means reached the same level of automation as some modern factories and manufacturing plants. Farmers are still essential, and the food they grow provides jobs for the people involved in the many branches of the food industry, including packaging, shipping, selling, and advertising.
In fact, by keeping people fed, farms ensure that societies have citizens with the necessary motivation and health to participate in the economy.
These truths only scratch the surface of how the agricultural industry sparks growth and strengthens the overall global community, but the problem is that many people have a notion that farming is inherently “old-fashioned” work. While they may be able to realize and accept how it creates jobs and stabilizes the economy, they might not consider how it also drives technological development.
Take, for instance, unmanned drone technology. The average person probably thinks of drones as either military weapons or consumer gadgets. They might not know that drones are becoming increasingly useful in farming. Unmanned aircraft give farmers the ability to efficiently monitor their crops, distribute agrochemicals where needed, and identify areas where food growth is limited by competing plants, illness, or pests. As more and more farmers embrace this technology, more companies will work toward inventing new tools and applications for it.
This, in turn, could spark further growth in infrastructure. One of the primary barriers keeping farmers from implementing drones more frequently in their operations is a fundamental infrastructure problem. While these vehicles theoretically assist in a farmer’s work by relaying data and images wirelessly, in many of the more rural areas where farms are based, there aren’t enough cell towers to facilitate this type of communication on a reliable basis. These regions tend to be more sparsely populated than major urban centers, and as such, wireless carriers lack the incentive to build up the necessary infrastructure.
Now, however, that is likely to change. As wireless companies recognize an increased demand for service in areas where farmers might employ drones in their operations, they’ll be more likely to erect more towers. The result is easy to anticipate: more work for the business leaders who run these companies, more jobs for the lower-level employees involved in tasks like site acquisition and permitting, more profit for the architecture firms that design the towers, and greater opportunities for the construction workers who actually do the critical work of building the facilities. That’s not even mentioning the additional work available to construction firms that bid on the projects, environmental groups that inspect the properties prior to the building of the structure, and attorneys whose jobs often involve negotiating lease agreements between the property owners and the wireless carriers.
Even without calculating the estimated effect this would have on the overall economy, it’s easy to see how this process benefits people from all walks of life, be they lifelong farmers, managers at wireless companies, lawyers, or construction workers. For instance, if farmers weren’t creating the demand for this type of technology, there would be fewer opportunities for the people involved in developing it, and the people who would enjoy greater job security thanks to the new cell tower construction projects would instead have to compete for jobs.
That initial demand is crucial, and without agriculture the process would never be set in motion. Most people already understand that farms contribute to society by keeping the people of the world fed. That said, it’s important to understand how agriculture continues to promote civilization’s growth to this day. It’s practically impossible to overstate the importance of its role in the economy, and it’s essential that citizens of the world—and the politicians they elect—recognize this truth.