New Warriors, an Ancient Battle
The problem of showing people living in cities what is done in agriculture is not at all new. However, in Argentina, this challenge has a group of new warriors, of which I’m a proud member, willing to use new technologies to set information into motion. There are nearly sixty 18 to 35-year-old young members of the Argentine Rural Society (SRA) Association Ateneo responsible for implementing diverse activities which include courses, lectures, web videos, and participation in round tables to discuss the future of the industry. Only in Facebook, they have around 4 thousand followers!
Bayer is a partner of the SRA, and in collaboration with Ateneo members, offer trainings about Crop Science and Animal Health for specialists.
Rita Vionnet Alais, the Association’s Administrative Secretary, shares with us some of the association initiatives to protect the environment and manage business sustainably.
How did the SRA Association begin?
The Association began 34 years ago, within the framework of the Argentine Rural Society. It started as a gathering place for young people interested in agriculture and eager to receive training and certifications; to represent, protect, and promote farming and their values. Responsible agriculture practices and livestock management are fundamental to ensure food supply, protect the environment for the next generation, and help generate opportunities for the country continuous growth.
What are the Ateneo main activities?
We regularly meet with specialists to discuss topics of interest to the group. We organize outings called “in the Field,” in which we travel to farms - for example, breeding fields, dairy farms, etc. - and learn first-hand from farmers’ experiences. In addition to this in-the-field outings, we participate in forums, seminars, and congresses to ensure we keep up-to-date with new developments. We also provide trainings and disseminate information, both through the SRA and in cooperation with other agriculture associations, entities or institutions around technology, regulatory or other relevant industry topics.
Young people’s interest in agriculture-related careers seems to have rebound recently. What is, in your opinion, the reason for this change?
I believe the increase interest in agriculture-related careers, is the higher interconnectivity within different fields of study which was not the case in the past. For instance, computer science and robotics: these are tools that are growing continuously and contributing more and more to the farmers’ work! Biotechnology is another example; it has allowed crop yields to grow over the past 20 years, and generated huge interest in science. Actually, this is what happened to me. I have a degree in Agrobiotechnology Engineering, and what led me to choose this area was that it involves Science and Agriculture. The Association has members that come from diverse careers and areas of activity, such as Agricultural Engineers, Chemical Engineers, Veterinarians, Biochemists, Lawyers, Accountants, Business Managers, and Social Psychologists, among others.
New Warriors, an Ancient Battle
What kind of changes has the Ateneo brought about?
I noticed a larger number of highly committed people joining the Ateneo recently. I believe that being organized, offering interesting activities and working to implement practices that deliver better results, generates confidence in the future of agriculture and creates interest , which helps the association to continue growing.
Social media channels seem to be a useful tool to explain to consumers and society at large how food is produced. How does the Association use social media?
We use social networks, particularly Facebook and Instagram. Social media channels allow us to convey a clear, immediate message. We use them to explain who we are and our activities, as well as to quickly help spread news about agriculture. We are trusted among Internet users and many choose to join our channels to keep up with news and events. In addition, this is the how most questions come in and can be answered. Social media channels have helped us broaden our message reach by engaging with a larger community, and explain some of the issues facing the industry.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges agriculture will be up against over the next five years?
In my view, the challenge we face is the pace at which innovation is impacting agriculture and how to incorporate all these new technologies while farming in a sustainable way. All the changes impacting our industry are uncovering new opportunities both from a production and employment standpoint. While many benefits are being ripped from the incorporation of new technologies, we have made mistakes and disagree at many levels including how to feed a growing population. The dialogue is positive and constructive. I’m optimistic about the future and the possibilities these new ag warriors will have to continue to deliver higher yields with profit while protecting the environment and the people.