If you have been a part of the farming industry and you have been following the trends over the last few years, you might have thought you had a pretty firm idea of the direction it was headed in. For instance, you probably assumed that more and more farms would be run on an intensive model.
Intensive farming is essentially, ultra efficient farming. One example of intensive farming would be to keep animals such as cows inside virtually all year around. By doing this, you can save a lot of money because then all your fields can be used for growing crops instead. And, depending on the area that you live in it can even make a practical sense. In some areas of the world, like Scotland, the climate is too wet and wild for the majority of the year to leave these animals outside. So, it could be argued there’s very little reason to take them out at all. Studies have even shown that they might even be happier living in close quarters with one another.
It’s not the only form of intensive farming either. Another type would be to use chemicals and hormones to grow crops and products. This means that the stock is larger and can be sold for a higher price.
So, with the benefits of intensive farming clear, one could have predicted that this would be the route all farmers would decide to take running their farm in the future. But as it turns out, that won’t be the case.
In fact, recently there has been a shift with more farmers favoring less intensive forms of production. For instance, many farmers are now deciding to let animals such as cows stay outside again, allowing them to be more free and have an increased amount of space. While other farmers have even stopped using chemicals to grow products altogether. Why is this?
Well, there’s a large section of the western world that is more than happy to pay a higher price for organic and free range products. As such, this increase in market demand makes less intensive methods more attractive and profitable for farmers.
This is just one example of how the future of farming isn’t quite what people thought it would be. Here are a few other changes that no one saw coming.
Farmers: The Ultimate Homesteaders
If we took a trip back to the 1940s, we would see that farmers used to be completely self-sufficient. They would grow their own food for themselves, and the extras would be marketed and sold, again often by themselves, in places like farmers markets. That all changed through the boom of the industrial sector and globalization. Suddenly, farms weren’t more like an industrial business, and many were run like factories.
As for the people who ran these farms, they were often just like normal working families. The kids would go to school, the parents would work on the farm, and they wouldn’t be completely self-sufficient. They might buy some of their products from the supermarket or stores. It was during this time that farming was a highly profitable business to be in.
These days, there has been yet another shift with farmers often struggling to break even each year in some parts of the world. Indeed, this pressure on finances is actually what pushed a lot of farmers towards more intensive methods. However, it has also led to farms once more becoming self-sufficient. Only, thanks to new tech and resources self-sufficiency levels have actually grown.
For instance, these days, farms don’t even need to buy their own water. Instead, they can use resources like steel tanks to store and manage their own supply of potable water. The supply in potable water tanks can be used for the family to drink as well as livestock. On top of this, plumbing and irrigations systems can be provided for with rain and storm water. In fact, these days it’s quite common for farms to be almost completely self-dependant and cut off from the grid.
This is mainly thanks to renewable power options like solar and wind. A lot of farmers are now using at least one area of their land for renewable sources of energy. Solar panels can be set up to fill an entire field. This energy may not even just power the farm. It could actually be sold off and supplied to the local community which is another way that farms are changing.
Ten or twenty years ago, it was quite common for farms to be one thing or another. For instance, you might farm livestock or crops, you wouldn’t always do both. If you were farming cows, you could sell beef or produce beef. Today, it’s more common for the farming model to be completely diversified. That doesn’t just include things like crops and livestock either.
In fact, it’s entirely possible for farms these days to have a complete section of their land dedicated to tree farming. This makes a lot of sense if there is forestry on the land near or around the farm. Since this can not be used for crops or animals, it’s only logical to use the resource available.
Of course, the diversity of modern farms can be even more broad than that. We’ve already mentioned the possibility of selling renewable power, but there is also the possibility of renting out the land for private occasions. Indeed, if you have enough acres of land on your farm, you could even convert barn houses into private luxury living areas or holiday homes.
What about automation in the agricultural industry? We have all heard of the automated car that can drive itself. In fact, most car producers already have a car like this on the market. Those that don’t are working on developing on right now. However, the unfortunate truth is that the tech is still quite limited. It’s not capable of operating at high speeds, and it can run into dead spots. Even Tesla, the frontrunners in the development of self-driving tech, warn that drivers should still be paying attention to the road and keep both hands on the wheel at all time. You might think that this makes the tech somewhat redundant, but it’s just at the beginning of the development cycle. So, what does this have to do with farming?
Well, if the tech can only work at low speeds in limited areas, that sounds perfect for a self-driving tractor. As luck would have it, this tech is already in the development stages. Head over to silicone valley, and you might even be able to catch a glimpse of them testing it right now. It was publically announced just last year, so we’re probably still at least one or two years away from being able to buy it on the market. However, that doesn’t change the fact that ten years from now there’s a good chance that self-driving tractors will be present in farms across the country.
Essentially, it’s going to make a farmer's job even easier and similar to a modern factory, a farm could theoretically run itself. We have already seen this type of development in the dairy industry.
If you manage to get a tour of one of the biggest dairy farms in America, you will see that that they have massive, rotating milking machines. Cows walk freely onto the machine and then are rotated to be milked without any manual interaction at all. The benefit of this type of setup is that it requires a limited workforce and is incredibly self-sufficient. We can definitely expect to see more resources like this being used on farms in the future
It probably won’t come as a surprise to farmers that there has been an increased focus on digital resources in farms over the last few years. It’s quite typical for farms to be run using some form of cloud software. By doing this, it’s easy for farmers to check information such as the level of stock they have, their profits, their accounts and even their supplies. Again, like a modern factory, all this information can be readily available on a table or virtually any other smart device. It’s just another factor making life easier for farmers and keeping them in touch with producers, suppliers, and sellers.
Farms might seem isolated from a geographical standpoint. But there’s a lot going on underneath the surface to keep them connected to the market and key individuals or companies for their business.
As you can see then, the future of farming may not be what many people have predicted. There will be an increased focused on self-sufficiency, and while technology will certainly play a part, it may not necessarily take the role that people assumed. It’s still unclear where farming will be exactly ten or twenty years down the line. With a growing population, there will definitely be more pressure on farms, and it may even lead to a fresh surge of development for the agricultural industry. Right now, all we can do is wonder what farming could become further down the road.