Regular readers of this blog know that it often touches on several recurring topics. One of them is the need for smart young people to join the agriculture and agrochemical industries. Some people assume that these fields are shrinking, but actually, experts expect to see a surge of new jobs in the coming years. For those who recently graduated college or will be graduating soon and are unsure of what their next step should be, it’s a good idea to explore a career in agriculture.
According to a 2015 announcement from former United States Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, close to 60,000 new jobs are expected to open up each year in the agriculture and related industries in the United States alone. A report from Purdue University and the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture indicates that more than half of those jobs are filled by college graduates with specialized skills and training. A commonly held myth about farming is that most people in the industry lack any formal training or higher education, but nothing could be further from the truth. Throughout the field of agriculture, there are literally thousands of roles available to college graduates.
Perhaps even more interestingly, statistics indicate that only slightly more than half of those roles are filled by graduates who studied a subject closely related to agriculture while pursuing their degree. While a background in the field may be useful to have, it’s still entirely possible to thrive in this line of work without having learned much about it in school. If you’re able to learn fast and tackle new challenges, you can find a way to make yourself valuable.
One of the reasons people who haven’t studied agriculture still find rewarding jobs in the industry is simple: there are many different roles to fill, requiring a pool of job candidates representing a wide variety of talents and areas of expertise.
For example, you may not have had much interest in the science of farming during your time as a student, but you may have been drawn to innovations in mobile technology. People with these types of interests have found recent success in the field of agriculture and agrochemicals.
Farmers are always looking for ways to maximize their crop yield. This isn’t simply because doing so allows them to make more money. The fact is, the more food they can grow, the more food there is to share with the global population. When they boost their crop yield, the entire community benefits.
In their efforts to grow more food, farmers have turned to a number of technological innovations to facilitate more precise methods of cultivating and protecting their crops. Many now use aerial drones to get a bird’s-eye view of their fields (and, perhaps one day, to distribute agrochemicals), unmanned tractors and similar farming equipment to complete work more efficiently, and even remote monitoring stations to keep a close eye on how healthy their crops are.
Although the application of these tools has occurred only fairly recently, evidence suggests that the trend won’t be slowing down anytime soon. As such, farmers will need technologically minded people to design more effective machines and programs and come up with the best possible ways to apply them.
This is just one example of the kind of role you could find in the agriculture industry, even if you didn’t study a subject directly related to it. The point is, no matter where your interests and talents lie, you’ll still have the opportunity to forge a career in agriculture.
Students are often idealistic people. They may seek a career that rewards them financially, allows them to put their skills to good use, and makes the world a better place.
While humankind has come a long way since the first hunter-gatherer tribes began to adopt a more agrarian lifestyle, we still rely on farms to supply us with our food. By working in agriculture, a young person can have the chance to contribute to the global community, using their expertise to help in the fight against hunger. The stimulating, interesting work is just an added bonus.
If you’re looking for an industry that will give you a sense of purpose but requires drive and intelligence as well, look into the kind of work you could do in the agrochemical or agriculture industries. With a creative application of your education or talents, you could find a perfect fit.
A common theme in this blog is the idea that people outside the agriculture and agrochemical industries don’t truly appreciate how important these fields are. There are variety of valid reasons this is the case.
First, the media rarely covers the industry in detail. Second, public schools don’t teach students much about agriculture outside of a historical perspective. Finally, popular culture often depicts farming as old-fashioned work. As a result, people who don’t directly participate in these industries either don’t think much about them at all, or they don’t realize the major role agriculture plays in the lives of everyone on the planet.
However, it would behoove people to consider the significance of agriculture. Farms benefit the population of a given area. Quite simply, farms provide a reliable source of food that profoundly affects society in a variety of ways. In fact, agriculture is the reason civilization was able to develop to begin with.
The Significance of the Transition to an Agrarian Society
Prior to the emergence of agrarian societies, human beings were primarily hunter-gatherers. That meant moving to an area, exhausting the supply of food, then moving on somewhere else. This way of living didn’t allow for a structured civilization to evolve. Moving from one place to another made it difficult to focus resources on arts, medicine, science, technology, etc. It also prevented civilizations from passing down the kinds of cultural traditions which allow for a society to form strong bonds.
Thanks to the development of organized farming, that changed. When humans began to grow food, it was easier for them to settle down in one place. This gave them the opportunity to work towards other important endeavors, laying the foundation for the human civilization we enjoy today.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that the food supplied by farmers doesn’t merely benefit those who live in the immediate area. In the early days of human societies, that may have been the case. However, now that we have efficient forms of transportation capable of moving large quantities of food, that food has global significance.
A Reliable Food Supply Promotes Political Stability
Many of the conflicts that have taken place throughout human history stem from, among a variety of other relevant factors, competition for resources. In the distant past, this took the form of rival societies fighting with one another for food and shelter.
Unfortunately, in more recent history, not much has changed. Conflicts still stem from an imbalance of resources. When people’s essential needs are taken care of, they are more secure and fulfilled. On the other hand, when nations and populations experience an insufficient or unreliable supply of food, the result can be social, economic, and political instability. It’s simply the principle of self-preservation in action.
This means that the agricultural industry is in the position to help promote world peace. The more food that farms can produce, the more food can be shared with the people of the world. As resources become more widely available to everyone on the planet, there will be less need for conflict.
True, farms can’t entirely rid the world of war - competition for resources plays a major role, but it isn’t the only cause of conflict. However, the agriculture industry can help to significantly decrease the amount of global violence that occurs in the long run.
The Role of Agrochemicals
That’s why it’s also necessary to understand the role agrochemicals play in ensuring political and social stability around the globe. Agrochemicals work to ensure that farmers can maximize their crop yield. They fertilize the soil for robust growth, prevent pests from destroying crops, and eliminate weeds that might otherwise deprive crops of their full nutrition.
The more effective agrochemicals are, and the more widely-used they are, the easier it is for farms to grow more food as well as ensure that the food grown is of high nutritional quality. As has been demonstrated in this blog entry, the more food farmers can grow, the more people they can feed. The more people have food security, the less global conflict there will be.
Again, none of this is to suggest that farms hold the key to world peace. That said, too many people undervalue the role of farms. Remember, they served as the first building blocks of human civilization. Even today, with our advanced technologies and medicines, society would crumble if farms suddenly disappeared. No matter how far a society advances, people still need food.
As has been shown in the past, when sufficient amounts of high-quality food are widely available, people are much more likely to be cooperative, devoting their energies to productive tasks instead of destructive ones. Make no mistake about it, agriculture and agrochemicals have global significance.
Anyone with an interest in the business world knows that fresh, young startups are constantly revolutionizing established industries that haven’t kept up with the times. Agriculture may be the oldest industry of all, and tech companies could stand to benefit if they target the niche early on.
Although it’s unlikely that there will ever be a farming app that’s as popular as Instagram or Facebook, farmers are going to need new software solutions in the coming years. Software developers looking for an untapped market should take note.
The Current State of Agricultural Technology
As has been covered on this blog before, new technologies like drones and unmanned equipment are becoming more commonplace on farms. For example, a farmer could use an aerial drone to monitor crops more efficiently, or to distribute agrochemicals rapidly. Unmanned vehicles will perform the work that typically required a human operator. Additionally, remote monitoring stations may even supply farmers with a constant stream of data about the health of a given sections of crops.
All these innovations are quickly being embraced by many in the industry, because they’re geared towards spreading the principles of precision agriculture. This is one of the most quickly-growing trends in the agriculture industry. It essentially involves farmers using a range of tools and methods to more specifically assess and target the needs of their crops.
In the past, a farmer might have noticed that a section of crops appeared healthy, and as a result, he or she might decide not to apply additional agrochemicals or nutrients. However, within that section, there could be some crops that do need those resources. Without the nutrients they needed, those crops could fail to grow, limiting the crop yield of the farm as a result.
Now, it’s generally accepted that farmers will soon be able to use monitoring stations to get a more thorough picture of which crops needs more attention and which don’t. This allows farmers to not only boost crop yield, but also to conserve resources like agrochemicals. Rather than applying agrochemicals throughout their crops randomly, farmers can apply them to the crops that need those chemicals, while skipping those that are already healthy.
Room for Technological Development
However, there are three needs which must be fulfilled before these types of solutions can become more widespread. First, the actual drones, vehicles, and devices must be available. That doesn’t appear to be a problem: companies are quickly responding to demand within the industry.
Second, because most of these tools rely on mobile technology to relay information to farmers, digital infrastructure will have to be built up to facilitate this. Currently, the infrastructure necessary for quick and reliable mobile communications is often sparse around farms.
Providers tend to build their antenna towers and facilities in areas of high population density. As farmers continue to pursue these types of precision solutions, mobile companies will have to help by constructing the needed infrastructure.
Third and finally, farmers will need intuitive and accurate software they can use to gather the information they need from their tools. Imagine a farmer using remote monitoring stations to keep an eye on the health of their crops. In the future, they may access this data via a mobile app on a tablet device. To get the best results, they’ll want easy-to-use software that provides them with a clear breakdown.
Additional Applications for Agricultural Technology
Collecting data isn’t the only use farmers will have for new software technologies. As precision agriculture techniques help to further conserve agrochemicals and resources, farmers may find it worthwhile to keep a detailed digital inventory of these items.
Doing so will help them to save even more money and grow even more crops. People already rely on mobile apps to manage their own finances, keep track of daily tasks, and handle their banking needs.
Agricultural apps will simply be a more specialized service. Imagine an app designed specifically for farmers, making it easy for them to take inventory, schedule necessary tasks, evaluate the health and quality of their crops, and respond to the needs of crops which may not be receiving sufficient nutrition. It’s possible that such an app is right around the corner.
Before the agriculture industry can truly embrace the possibilities that drones and related technologies have to offer, this final piece of the puzzle needs to be available. Software developers are in the position right now to address a major demand before the competition does.
Better Agriculture Technology Can Improve Everyone’s Lives
Again, these apps and services will probably only affect farmers in a direct way. Indirectly, however, they can have a huge impact on people all over the world. With tools like these, farmers can grow more crops, providing more food to the people of the world. Even if you never find use for a mobile farming app, you’ll still benefit when software firms truly begin focusing on this niche.
As has been covered frequently in this blog, agriculture is one of the oldest industries known to humankind - some might even say it’s the oldest, full stop. However, that doesn’t mean that the work of farming today resembles that of thousands of years ago. In fact, it doesn’t even resemble farming from 50 years ago.
Just like any other field, agriculture is constantly adapting to new technological changes and embracing new innovations. For those who work in the industry, implementing new methods of boosting crop yields have resulted in increased profits.
Additionally, in many instances, precision agriculture has also allowed farmers to simplify processes that once may have proven tedious or time-consuming. By taking advantage of emerging technologies and staying on top of new farming methods, they’ve streamlined their tasks and become more efficient.
That said, you don’t need to work in the industry to benefit. When farms produce more food, the global population as a whole is better off.
What is precision agriculture?
To better understand why precision agriculture is so important, it pays to spend a little bit of time getting familiar with the concept. Precision agriculture refers to a broad constellation of farming tools, techniques, and methods used to manage production within individual fields of crops. A single blog post can’t begin to cover every subtopic that falls under the larger heading of precision agriculture.
On the other hand, having a deeper familiarity with what this approach to farming entails can allow everyone - from casual readers to industry veterans - to more fully appreciate how the industries of agriculture and agrochemicals are always developing.
Quite simply, precision agriculture involves farmers’ ability to hone in more closely on the specific needs of small sections of crops. In the past, it was difficult to monitor particular plants that closely.
The approach of trying to determine which crops were thriving and which were not on a case-by-case basis did not lend itself to efficiency. Unfortunately, this often meant that crop yields were not optimized. Additionally, resources like fertilizer, herbicides, and other agrochemicals were sometimes wasted.
What would happen without precision agriculture?
As an example, imagine that in one small section of a farm, there is an even smaller section of crops that do not appear to be receiving sufficient nutrition. Without precision farming techniques, there were generally two potential outcomes in a situation like this one.
In the first scenario, a farmer might discover that some crops in this section were not receiving all the nutrients they needed. He or she would then correct the problem by applying fertilizer or any other necessary resources throughout the entire section of the field.
While this may have been effective when it came to helping the unhealthy plants thrive, it was also wasteful. Many of the other plants in that section of the field didn’t need additional nutrients, so fertilizer and other resources are wasted on crops that already have all the nutrients they require.
The other potential outcome wasn’t any better. If those unhealthy crops were a small part of a larger section, surrounded primarily by healthier crops, the farmer might overlook them. This would deny those crops the additional resources they required to grow as fully as possible. Such a practice may have prevented waste, but it also meant that those crops wouldn’t grow. Additionally, the amount of food the farm produced wasn’t as substantial as it could have been.
How does precision agriculture address these issues?
Precision agriculture represents an attempt to solve this problem. A large component of precision agriculture involves using technologies like aerial drones to create detailed maps of a field. These maps divide crops into much smaller sections than they previously would have been. This allows a farmer to account for a greater number of potential variables that could impact the health of a given set of crops.
Suppose a farmer recognizes that the crops in one area seem to be less healthy than those that surround them. By using precision agriculture, he or she can more effectively provide those crops with the resources they need. Furthermore, farmers can do so without wasting resources on crops that don’t need them.
Precision agriculture also allows a farmer to identify small areas where crops seem healthier than normal. By taking stock of the numerous variables and factors that might account for this, farmers can more easily determine what steps they should take to ensure all their crops are just as healthy.
This doesn’t just help farms make more money. First and foremost, it helps them to grow more food for the people of the world. That’s why precision agriculture is important, whether you work in the industry or not. As this approach to farming continues to develop, the fight against hunger could get much easier.
Although this blog touches on subjects ranging from politics to ancient history, its primary focus is agrochemicals and their uses in farming. However, that’s a fairly broad topic.
To have a richer understanding of (and appreciation for) agrochemicals and their uses, it helps to learn some specifics. By knowing the difference between various subsets of agrochemicals, you’ll get much more out of what you read here.
What are agrochemicals?
Quite simply, an agrochemical is a chemical-based product used in farming, typically to boost crop yield. These products have been used in a variety of forms for a very long time.
That said, modern innovations have made for much more effective agrochemicals than those of years past. Innovations continue to this day, helping farms supply more food to the global population.
The following are the key types of products that fall into this category:
Animals and insects pose a major risk to crops. If they’re drawn to a food source, they could seriously deplete the supply of that particular plant. Pesticides, as the name suggests protect crops by killing, incapacitating, or warding off these invasive species.
It’s important to note that the benefits of pesticides aren't limited to boosting crop yield, though. Many of the pests that are drawn to farm plants carry illnesses with them.
Before pesticides were in widespread use, people were at risk of contracting these illnesses if they ate plants that had been in contact with disease-causing pests. Thanks to increased pesticide use in farms throughout the globe, this is much less of a threat now.
Insecticides are a tape of pesticide and serve essentially the same purpose. The primary difference between the two is easy to guess. While pesticide is an umbrella category for any chemical substance designed to protect against different types of pests, insecticides target insects specifically. That doesn’t mean they aren’t useful, however.
These products are generally tailored to guard against particular species of insects. This makes them a good resource to have available if there is a certain insect that is especially common in a given area.
Another factor that makes insecticides worthy of attention is the fact that they fall into two separate types. One type of insecticide, called a contact insecticide, simply kills an insect when the insect comes into contact with it. These products are effective, but the effect is short-lasting. Since they don’t remain on a plant permanently, they’re not a long-term danger for insects.
Other forms of insecticides - through complex chemical and biological processes - essentially become a part of the plant. In other words, the plant begins to absorb the insecticide. That means when an insect tries to consume the plant, it also ingests the insecticide.
Even if you don’t work in the agriculture industry, the odds are good you’ve used herbicides. If you’ve ever sprayed weedkiller on your property, you’ve used an herbicide. It may have been a consumer market herbicide, but weedkiller is an herbicide nonetheless.
Herbicides are useful because animals and insects aren’t the only pests that pose a threat to crops. Other species of plants can begin to grow in the same area, competing for nutrients and resources.
Herbicides are designed to kill off invasive or unwanted species of plants while leaving the useful crops unharmed. This gives the crops a greater chance to thrive, as they’ll make greater use of the nutrients in the soil.
Many species of fungus have also been known to cause significant damage to crops. As such, fungicides are commonly used in agriculture, but they are also widely available to the average consumer in a variety of forms. These products effectively prevent fungi from doing harm to any crops to which they're applied.
To be more specific, synthetic fertilizer.
Many fertilizers are actually natural materials. These don’t qualify as agrochemicals because they have not been designed or manufactured to include any special chemical-based formulas.
However, it’s no secret that fertilizers play an important role in agriculture. Without them, it would be far more difficult to grow healthy, robust crops. In fact, the role fertilizers play is so important that many have chosen to improve on natural fertilizers by creating synthetic, agrochemical varieties.
There are several other types of agrochemical growth agents, like hormones, commonly used in farming. With them, it’s even easier for farmers to grow the most food possible.
Once again, that’s good for everyone. Agrochemicals may have been in use for many years. However, it’s important that they continue to improve and that the industry continue to progress towards more effective solutions.
Although the agrochemicals in use now are strong, they don’t completely maximize the potential of a farm to produce crops. The closer the industry gets to reaching that goal, the more food there will be for people throughout the world.
Although the agricultural and agrochemical industries are essential to human civilization, they don’t get a lot of press. Those interested in the topic may read trade journals, relevant news stories, and blogs like this one.
Unfortunately, however, the general public doesn’t seem consistently concerned with agricultural news and innovation. That’s worth changing.
When more people understand the significance of an industry, they’re more likely to see ways in which their talents can be useful. To attract the best minds, it’s necessary to appeal to as wide a range of people as possible.
One of the best ways to accomplish this is to be in the news. When people are reminded of the existence of an industry - and the work being done in that industry - they perceive it as worthy of their attention. Additionally, covering newsworthy topics through an original lens can increase a news outlet’s engaged readership or viewership.
With that in mind, the following are some simple recommendations for angles the news media might consider when covering agriculture and agrochemicals. Doing so could not only help generate greater interest in related careers, but also increase readership or improve ratings.
Although many people still think of farming as “old-fashioned” work, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, farmers tend to stay on top of the latest technological developments, applying them to their work in order to boost their overall crop yield.
For example, aerial drones have been a popular topic in tech publications in recent years. Primarily, reporters have focused on covering the military and consumer applications of these devices.
However, drones are also sure to play a key role in the future of agriculture. Farmers have demonstrated an interest in using drones to monitor crops, distribute agrochemicals, and save time. There’s also increased demand now for unmanned, Internet-capable farming equipment, like tractors.
Essentially, there is a robotic revolution set to begin in the agricultural and agrochemical industries. People who are interested in the newest advances in technology would be interested in learning more.
Agriculture serves as the foundation for societies. By providing a reliable supply of food, agriculture led to the end of the hunter-gatherer period in human history. It ushered in a time when people had greater opportunities to focus on science, art, mathematics, and the various other pursuits that allow civilizations to flourish.
To this day, agriculture still plays that role. Unfortunately, however, hunger has not been completely eradicated. Food is a key resource, and major geopolitical conflicts often stem from competition for resources. As such, agriculture has a significant effect on just about all major global issues.
To provide audiences with a full perspective on geopolitical issues, reporters should spend more time covering how food supplies impact events. Additionally, news outlets could also address how agriculture can affect their resolution.
As the popularity of health magazines, talk shows, and websites indicates, the general public is very interested in health-related topics. This seems like a perfect fit for reporters aiming to cover agriculture more frequently.
A key component of health is nutrition. Without an adequate food supply, getting proper nutrition is difficult - arguably impossible.
Audiences want to know where their food is coming from, what types of farming techniques allow for production of the healthiest food, and more. This information ties directly into one of their key interests.
Agriculture is still an industry, but it’s unique compared to many others. Today’s digital age means a rapidly-changing business landscape. A company that seems poised for global success one month can be rendered obsolete the next.
Another company may come along at any time with an offering that makes previous iterations of a product or service redundant. It can be difficult to predict which niche industries will stick around, and which will fizzle out over time.
That’s not the case with agriculture and agrochemicals. People will always need food, so they will always need farms. This makes agriculture an interesting topic for a business reporter to cover. So much business news these days focuses on niche offerings that might not be relevant six months down the line.
Farming, on the other hand, will always be relevant. This means reporters have a chance to explore how businesses operate - and innovate - when offering a service that they know will remain necessary in perpetuity. There are many interesting angles to consider, which would make it easy to attract readers.
One of the simplest ways to attract greater talent to an industry is to ensure that people understand their talents are applicable. If people get a chance to read more news stories about agriculture and agrochemicals, they’ll see how they can contribute, when they might not have before.
The agriculture and agrochemical industries are always looking for bright young minds interested in making a difference. Although some people think of farming as old-fashioned or a technologically unsophisticated industry, the truth is that farmers have always embraced the latest innovations and technologies. When science, engineering, botany, and a host of other disciplines are applied to agriculture, crop yields improve and food production increases.
One example of this is the growing interest in precision agriculture, which harnesses the power of technology and data to help farmers respond more effectively to the varying conditions that exist within and across their fields of crops. With precision agriculture, farmers have a better understanding of the health and productiveness of their crops—even down to the last square foot—and can tend to them more efficiently. Related to this is the growing demand for aerial drones and unmanned tractors that can assist farmers in their work. The latest advances in science continue to shape the agricultural industry.
That’s good for everyone. The more food farmers can grow, the more food there is for the global population. Because of this critical need, it’s important that those working in the fields of agriculture and agrochemicals strive to make them appealing to students who are eager to use their skills and carry these industries into the future.
Encouraging the Next Generation of the Agriculture Industry
It isn’t always easy to convince someone that a potential career or industry is worth their attention if they haven’t considered it before. Many people form their initial ideas about what types of work they will pursue when they are children. While few actually grow up to become exactly what they dreamed of in childhood, they usually follow a path that they learned about in their youth.
Getting kids interested in a career in the agriculture industry may be particularly difficult for this reason. Most people have never visited a farm and many may not even consider where their food comes from at all—as long as it’s available in their local supermarket, they don’t think about it. For most people, farming is an abstract idea, not an everyday reality.
That’s why it’s a good idea for teachers to consider assigning their young students a project which involves running a “mock” farm. Ideally, this would happen in a science class, though it could also overlap with one on economics. There are likely many smart kids out there who falsely assume that the work of a farmer isn’t one that requires much intelligence. They don’t know that there are many ways they could actually thrive in this field. By giving them a broader perspective on agriculture and agrochemicals, schools can help drive more talented individuals to this type of work.
Designing a Mock Farm Project
The project itself can take on a variety of potential forms, depending on the resources available and the age of the students. If there is space on school property, a teacher could petition administrators to let them create a small crop field. Obviously, this type of project will require not only space, but also fertile land that can facilitate plant growth. Regardless, it would give students an opportunity to explore the field of agriculture in a fun, interactive manner. By actually being tasked with growing crops and taking steps to optimize their crop yield, students will come away with a better understanding of the many factors that must be addressed in modern farming.
Again, a teacher might also consider approaching the project from the angle of economics. This is especially smart if there isn’t any place on school grounds where students can grow crops. The project would involve providing students with a fake budget, which they would use to “buy” tracks of land, as well as all the resources necessary to optimize their farm, such as drones, unmanned tractors, and agrochemical supplies. They would also make decisions about what to grow, to whom they would sell their products, or how many people they would hire. Essentially, the project would require students to make the kinds of decisions they would have to make if they ran a business. The business itself would simply happen to be a farm.
Because the students wouldn’t actually be managing any real farms, the teacher wouldn’t be able to evaluate them on the outcomes of their decisions. Instead, the teacher could require students to create a report—perhaps in the form of an essay or an oral presentation—explaining how and why they made some of their key decisions. This enables teachers to assess whether their students had a thorough grasp of the economic principles they were attempting to teach.
A mock farm project can be modified to fit the needs of any class, so it isn’t important to get too hung up on the details at first. What’s most important is ensuring that the students get the chance to see that there is more than enough room for smart, committed people in the agriculture and agrochemical industries. Ideally, it will inspire them to pursue careers in these fields later on in life.
Anyone who works in the agrochemical industry knows that we’re constantly striving to develop new, more effective products. This isn’t merely about making a profit. Worldwide, there is an increasing demand for agrochemicals that maximize farmers’ crop yields. In order to meet the global population’s rising food production needs, everyone within the industry must place a continued emphasis on creating strong, reliable products.
While we’ve been successful, there’s always room to improve, innovate, and explore. No field is stagnant. It’s obvious that there are still undiscovered ways to make agrochemicals even more effective than they already are. However, there’s a boundary that could prevent us from reaching those goals as rapidly as possible: inefficient R&D processes.
Research and development is at the core of the agrochemical industry. It’s the key to improving our current products and developing new ones. In all lines of work that involve substantial R&D, though, it’s important to step back from time to time and determine what could be done to boost the efficiency of these processes. When we address the factors that may be slowing us down, we can do an even better job of developing agrochemicals that protect our crops and help them thrive.
Better Data Management
First, we should explore new means of data management to confirm that we’re using the best tools and methods available. Obviously, data management is important in any field’s R&D efforts, but it’s especially significant when it comes to creating new agrochemicals. Keeping track of data in an organized manner doesn’t just make it easier to identify the chemicals that appear to be the most effective. It also ensures that companies abide by the numerous regulations that are simply an unavoidable and necessary component of the industry.
Better data management is also increasingly important because the R&D process has grown more complex, costly, and time-consuming. According to the industry group European Crop Protection, the cost of bringing an agrochemical product to market has increased by 55% since 2000. In addition, it now takes about 11 years to develop a product, up from 8 years in 1995. On average, creating a new agrochemical product requires a considerable R&D investment of $286 million.
Many R&D teams at agrochemical companies are already implementing the most efficient data management strategies. However, when it plays such an important role in the process, there’s no harm in taking stock of the current strategy and making absolutely sure that there are no ways in which it can be improved.
Along the same lines, it’s worthwhile to explore the potential for making use of new technologies that can help R&D teams automate more of their tasks. R&D work often yields the best results when scientists are able to focus on their actual research, rather than the administrative aspects of organizing and managing that research. Unfortunately, R&D is, by its nature, filled with such tasks that take time and attention away from other processes.
Again, it may be that any given R&D team has already optimized their technology usage, automating all the tasks that they can. But until they can say for certain that this is the case, it’s often smart to investigate new options. While adopting a new technology usually involves a transition stage that could slow processes down in the short run, in the long run, it can provide for a tremendous surge in productivity.
Focus on Most Promising Products
It’s also fair to keep in mind that there is an extremely practical side to the type of work that R&D specialists do. Of course they are the ones who help create new agrochemicals, but they could end up wasting much of their precious time if they focus on developing a product for which there is simply no market. That’s why they also need to be sure that they’re staying up-to-date on new advances in the field, such as precision agriculture, as well as market demands. The end goal of their work is to create a product that will provide for more robust crop yields, but if no one has any interest in using the products they develop, then they’ll never have their intended effect.
Because of this, R&D teams and the people who manage them must stay abreast of the changing landscape that is the agricultural industry. It doesn’t matter if you’ve automated every last task you can and taken every step to ensure your data management processes are efficient—you’re still going nowhere if you’re developing chemicals for which there will be no demand when they hit the market.
Obviously, improving the efficiency of R&D processes is no simple endeavor. Each team has their own set of needs to be addressed. However, no one should fall into the trap of forgetting the importance of this goal. The demand for increased food production will not go away; the global population is counting on intelligent, talented individuals and groups to work rapidly in their efforts to improve agrochemicals. Getting some perspective and considering what can be done to make research and development more productive and efficient is a win-win-win. It benefits agrochemical companies, farmers, and the public.
One common theme in this blog is that the ways in which farmers optimize their crop yields are always evolving. Although agriculture may seem like an old-fashioned line of work to people outside of the industry, farms have come a long way since the first hunter-gatherer tribes slowly began making the switch to a more agrarian society thousands of years ago. This trend of growth and evolution continues to this day.
With this in mind, there are some very practical reasons why people should pay attention to the latest technologies and methods employed by the agricultural industry. For example, by identifying areas where farmers need additional resources or tools in order to facilitate the deployment of innovative farming methods, individuals and organizations could find themselves in a position to benefit professionally and financially. And of course, everyone benefits when farms are able to grow more food while having less of an impact on the environment.
As this blog has previously discussed, farmers looking to save time while also improving their crops are turning to new technologies like aerial drones, unmanned farm equipment, and remote monitoring stations to perform their work with greater ease and precision. They can fly drones great distances to survey their land and even distribute necessary agrochemicals, and they can scale back their operations by using unmanned equipment, like tractors. This strategy not only saves money, but it also lets farmers redirect their workers’ energies to other necessary tasks. Another useful innovation is the remote monitoring station, which farmers can place throughout their fields to constantly check the health of their crops and instantly obtain important information that could help farmers reduce their water use or better manage pests.
These recent tools represent only a few of the numerous new technologies available, and it’s very likely that the industry will implement even more innovations in the near future. However, these inventions all share a common trait: they use mobile technology to send data to farmers remotely. Unfortunately, this attribute is one of the reasons why these technologies have yet to become widespread.
These new technological tools won’t work without significant infrastructure in place to facilitate mobile communications. However, mobile carriers have primarily focused on erecting towers and installing antennas in high-population areas, like major cities and roadways, where the majority of their customers are located. This means that rural and underdeveloped areas remain without the mobile technology infrastructure necessary to take advantage of the many farming innovations.
Unfortunately, many farms are based in low-population areas. This is especially the case if the farm itself is particularly large. From the point of view of a mobile carrier, this chunk of land isn’t a sensible place to build a new antenna tower. There are no houses, no major highways, no businesses—just farmland, with a very low surrounding population density. There simply aren’t enough customers in the area to justify the investment.
However, with the wide variety of new technological tools hitting the agricultural market recently, farmers are set to become big consumers of mobile technology services. It would, therefore, greatly benefit mobile carriers to pay attention to the evolving needs and demands of the agricultural industry.
There are currently significant gaps in coverage near many farms. Therefore, farmers looking to implement a tool like aerial drones or remote monitoring stations won’t be able to shop around for the best mobile carrier. Instead, they’ll simply give their business to whichever company happens to bring reliable coverage and service to the area first. Thus, the carrier who puts in place the needed infrastructure early on will be the one to reap the greatest benefits of this new business opportunity.
Even when other mobile carriers follow suit, the company that got there first will still be in a position to profit. Typically, municipalities do not allow carriers to erect additional towers if there are already existing ones on which the companies can place their antennas. This means that carriers who are late to the market must pay rent to the carrier who owns the tower in order to put up their antennas. This will provide an additional stream of revenue to the carrier who first built the infrastructure around these farms.
At first glance, agriculture (and, of course, agrochemicals) and politics may not seem to have a tremendous amount to do with one another. When people think about global affairs and political issues, they tend to focus on subjects like war, the economy, and the justice system, to name a few. However, agriculture has a direct connection to all of these concerns, and this has been true for the entirety of human civilization.
It’s important to understand and appreciate this relationship. Whenever someone discusses the agrochemical industry, whether this person is an entrepreneur, investor, educator, or everyday citizen, he or she shouldn’t do so through a limited perspective. Farming is a major political issue, and by treating it as such, societies and countries can make better decisions about how to use agriculture to further their goals and provide for their citizens.
Keeping the People Happy
At the most basic level, the function of a society is to provide for the survival and, ideally, overall health and contentment of its citizens. In humankind’s early days, communities often formed tribes to achieve these ends. Today, we’re more accustomed to national governments being the organizing force behind a society. While these two incarnations of the same idea may not greatly resemble one another, they still share the common purpose of keeping their members as satisfied as possible with their lifestyles.
It’s fairly obvious that ensuring people remain fed is essential to running a successful society. Without enough food, a population can’t survive. Because of this, farms have played a major role in human civilization for thousands of years. For most of human history, agriculture has been the means by which a group produces its food. While countries have come a long way from the primitive tribes of the distant past, they still need to ensure that their agricultural foundation is robust and healthy.
Farms enable a country to fulfill its main purpose of caring for its citizens. When the people of a country are unhappy with their government’s inability to provide for their basic needs, crime, civil unrest, and economic struggle are all potential consequences. With this in mind, voters should consider a politician’s stance on issues like agricultural and agrochemical use before lending their support to a candidate. While this topic may not be popular on political talk shows or in newspaper editorials, it is, in fact, highly significant.
Improving International Relations
Whether it involves two rival tribes fighting over territory or several nations engaged in lengthy combat, conflict between societies has plagued civilization for all of recorded history. Though wars are fought for a variety of reasons, from conflicting ideological beliefs to territorial disputes, one of the most common reasons two societies engage in combat is simple: the need for key resources.
Many of the earliest wars stemmed from a limited amount of food available in a given region. Seeing no way to share the food evenly between them, tribes fought over this essential resource. Thousands of years later, a lack of resources is still a primary factor in whether countries declare war on one another.
The more effectively farms can grow food, the more food there will be to share. If all societies can provide for their citizens’ basic needs, then they will be free to improve their relations with one another. True, there will always be other factors that result in disagreement—claiming that efficient farms will eliminate war entirely is naïve—but with decreased competition for resources, there will be one fewer reason for nations to resort to armed combat.
The farms of today are immensely more productive than those of the early human tribes. Thanks to innovations like fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides, we can protect our crops from illness and substantially boost the amount of food an individual farm can yield.
Moreover, the agricultural industry hasn’t stopped innovating. Developments ranging from precision agriculture (an approach to farming that involves using data, tools, and special techniques to maximize a farm’s efficiency) to unmanned drones that can monitor crops and distribute agrochemicals are all worth paying attention to. Political leaders, especially, should take note. Whether they serve on the board of a small town or negotiate treaties with other nations, elected officials should keep in mind that the more productive farms are, the easier it is to reduce conflict.
Again, not many people immediately link agriculture and politics, and this is something that needs to change. Educators should focus more on this topic in schools, and journalists should approach political coverage from this perspective more often. Society will no doubt benefit as a result.