Safeguarding the future by bringing together young people and technology

The challenge is clear. Incorporating young people into agriculture and farming is essential to guaranteeing the survival of the sector and its competitiveness, as well as to sustainable food production for a world population that will break through 10 billion by 2050. That’s why a combination of technology and young people is more essential, not just to rejuvenate the sector, but to bring a culture of innovation that can be transferred to their farms. And the European Union needs it. Half of producers are more than 55 years old and only 7% are below 35.

In Spain, the number is even lower, at just 5.3%. The current Common Agricultural Policy is aware of this dual challenge and plans to incorporate young people and women in the sector, as well as in innovative and sustainable practices.

There are already a lot of farmers that are engaged with conservation, there are many farmers that do organic farming, there are many producers that farm more in line with our needs and more in line with climate change goals. What we need to do is extend that base. A large part of farmers will produce in this positive way in the decade to come. It is fundamental that a generational renewal happens. We are starting to see great farmers, so we need to continue that work.

In Spain, there are examples of technological innovation in terms of statistics and including smaller regions, their capacity to innovate, their efforts and their imagination, not only allowing them to maintain their farms, but to thrive as well. In Bohadilla, Salamanca, the 200 inhabitants know Ángel García well. He ended his studies in agricultural engineering and decided to dedicate himself to his real passion: livestock farming. Now, the 35-year-old has changed how cattle management is carried out. A system of sensors allows farmers to pinpoint the optimum moment to inseminate their livestock and when they are about to give birth.

The first step of detection is a vaginal thermometer that is inserted into the animal 15 days before the estimated birth date. It records the temperature and 48 hours before delivery it sends a signal saying that birth is imminent. Within an hour, when the animal’s water breaks, it sends a text message to a mobile application. With a similar system that works on temperatures, we can detect the best time to inseminate heifers and reduce periods of inactivity.

Among other projects in the pipeline, it will be possible to monitor cattle via the website, via four cameras. It is a proposal aimed at potential buyers, who want to see the animals before purchasing. Buying online is a future opportunity for the sector. In the Spanish town of Mejorada, Elías Higueruela decided at 34 years old to enter a part of the sector less well known: snail farming. After setting up a farm and installing a refrigeration room, he’s moved the party online and onto social media.

He uses Facebook and social networks to sell them online, already cooked, with sauce and all the trimmings. It’s important because I think about keeping stock and selling to the final client.

The Green Economy, one of the basic concepts that farming of the future will have to take in, is another objective and he plans to install solar panels in order to provide clean energy for his enterprise. The panels can also take care of the automatic watering systems.

Communication technologies are an essential tool for professionals at the coal-face. In Segurilla, Nadia Melguizo, 31, is one of the few young producers that farm goats for their milk. She combines the animal management used in Toledo with work in the field, by mobile, with the region’s department of environment and rural development.

Technology now allows us to come up with guidelines that make our lives much easier on the farm. Also for removing carcasses. You can submit a request for them to be processed on Castilla La Mancha’s regional government’s website.

Young farmers are being called on to reinvent food management in order to adapt to changing factors. A present and a future in which development, innovation and technological solutions are the foundation for making farming an attractive, profitable and sustainable activity.

This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

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