A.G. Kawamura, California’s former secretary of agriculture, recently spoke about the importance of farming at the Nebraska Innovation Campus.
Many Americans have taken the agriculture industry for granted due to the general abundance of food available in the United States. As a result, Kawamura warned against falling prey to the idea that relying on conventional farming methods will always yield enough food for the population.
There have always been parts of the world where food is scarce. Rising populations, combined with the unpredictability of droughts and similar climate issues, could dramatically change the status quo without warning.
Agriculture’s Impact on Civilization
“Successful agriculture sustains civilization,” Kawamura said. “We don’t have to talk about what kind of agriculture it is, as long as it’s successful. That should be our focus right now.”
Kawamura makes an important point. Agriculture serves as the foundation upon which societies build and thrive. It’s impossible to pursue innovations in the arts, sciences, and any other field if your people aren’t fed. By addressing the basic needs of a society, farms allow civilization to flourish. If humankind is going to continue developing as a species, we’ll need to be certain that our methods of farming remain as effective as possible.
“Effective” is the key word in that statement. Kawamura would seem to agree. It’s no secret that there are many different approaches to farming. As technologies like aerial drones and unmanned equipment become more widely utilized, that will only be more evident. Nations should seek to identify and implement those methods that reliably yield the most amount of food for the greatest number of people.
Embracing New Agricultural Methods Is Crucial
That might mean adapting to new ways of thinking about agriculture. It could even mean preparing for another agricultural revolution. As Kawamura said, “It’s time for a global reset button,” adding, “We’re in a new age of agriculture. The pace of new knowledge and new thinking that is taking place is unbelievable.”
He’s right. Thanks to recent developments in areas like precision agriculture, farmers have recently discovered new ways to grow more crops. These methods could be regarded as vastly superior to those that came before.
Unfortunately, agriculture isn’t a topic that the average citizen thinks much about. As long as the existing farms continue to produce a dependable amount of food for their consumption, it’s easy for people to fail to consider where the food comes from. They may also forget that we still need to innovate in order to feed the world in the coming years.
For example, many of the techniques that fall under the heading of “precision agriculture” - essentially an approach to farming that involves very closely monitoring and addressing the individual needs of smaller groups of crops - require farmers to have access to special tools. In many (if not all) countries, the existing agricultural infrastructure doesn’t support the widespread implementation of these methods, despite their efficiency.
Government Contributions and Educational Outreach Will Be Crucial to Advancement
While some independent farmers may be able to afford the tools that they need to grow crops with greater precision, many others won’t. If citizens were informed of the benefits, they may see the value in governments contributing to the upgrade of existing infrastructure. Again, a new agricultural revolution could very well be starting. The countries that will benefit most will be those most prepared to embrace it.
With this in mind, Kawamura stressed the role of education in helping to spur innovation and public interest. Rather than urging listeners to rely on schools to make the needed curricular changes, Kawamura encouraged those working in the agriculture and agrochemical industries to work on cultivating this interest themselves.
“We need to produce excitement and enthusiasm globally about these goals to get everybody from around the world involved in this outcome we call the future.”
Although his statements may sound melodramatic to an outsider, to anyone who has worked in this industry, they sound entirely reasonable. Nations thrive based on how effective their agricultural methods are. Nations should not assume that the global, social landscape will remain static - it never does. Further, they should not assume that there are no farming methods more efficient than those that are already in use - nothing could be further from the truth.
Instead, it’s essential that world leaders focus on staying abreast of developments in the industry. Doing so could have genuine historical significance going forward, as the new agricultural revolution unfolds.