Planting the Seeds for Farming’s Future
October’s Youth Ag Summit in Brussels, Belgium brought together one hundred young agricultural enthusiasts from around the world for several days of important discussions and workshops addressing the future of food and farming. As part of the summit, were honored to host them at the Belgian ForwardFarm, Hof ten Bosch, to show them how the innovations they talk about today, can truly can be put into practice on working farms.
I sat down with Kamau Lindhardt, a delegate from Denmark with a background in the natural sciences, and Pietro Tonini, an Italian delegate passionate about agricultural policy, to discover their reaction to visiting a ForwardFarm and to learn more about their ideas on how to engage youth around sustainable agriculture.
What surprised you most about your visit to the Bayer ForwardFarm?
Kamau: I was impressed by the amount of effort and overall priority given to alleviate the environmental impact of farming activities. Denmark also has problems with spot pollution, and it was great to see real solutions put in place at Hof ten Bosch.
Pietro: Italy struggles with waste water run-off in fields, so it was interesting to see how the Phytobac [bioremediation system] organically cleans waste water. From natural solutions, to the digital Precision Farming technologies used on the farm, it was interesting to see the variety of tools and techniques helping the farmers to more efficiently use resources and inputs.
Global Manager, Bayer ForwardFarming
There certainly are challenges, both unique and shared, around the world. What excites you about agriculture, and why are you inspired to work in this sector?
Pietro: I’ve been interested in agriculture policy now for several years, especially when it comes to figuring out how to increase food security in developing countries. In the end, everything comes down to food. Without a stable food production, you can’t have stable production elsewhere. When communities have access to a stable and nutritious food supply the rest of the economy is able to prosper. I want to be able to see more of that become a reality!
Kamau: That’s it exactly. Agriculture has the potential to serve as a tool for creating jobs in developing nations, especially when it comes to figuring out how to increase the nutrition of foods that are being consumed. And personally, I find it exciting that working in agriculture gives you the opportunity to quite literally pick the fruits of the effort you put into your work. Whether it be a calf or a seed, there is something extremely fulfilling about watching something grow.
In the agriculture sector, there is a lot of talk about sustainable agriculture and its importance to the future of modern farming. You had the chance to see some practices put in place that reflect this, but sometimes the term can be misconstrued or misunderstood. How would you define sustainable agriculture?
Kamau: It’s about lowering the impact of farming on the environment in a way that empowers and protects people. And of course, it’s also about increasing the transparency between consumers and producers. It’s important to open up communication with consumers to help them understand that farming can go hand in hand with increased efficiency and environmental impact reduction. Sustainable agriculture needs to encompass all three pillars of sustainability.
Pietro I see it as our only option for the future. I agree with Kamau that it is about improving the efficiency of using our resources, promoting the preservation of nature through direct actions and improving social wellbeing through increased awareness of the agriculture sector. As food is the basis of all, increasing the resiliency of the sector will in turn promote environmental stability.
Planting the Seeds for Farming’s Future
I’ve really enjoyed hearing from both of you and am very impressed by your passion for the subject, but we know not everyone has that same level of interest, especially your peers. What do you think is the best way to engage younger generations around the future of agriculture?
Pietro: It’s important to find more opportunities to bring like-minded people together to discuss solutions to challenges in agriculture, to create a collective sense of awareness and responsibility.
Kamau: Programmers, designers, architects – the future of farming is dependent on so many disciplines! I think it’s also important to engage with young people beyond the walls of traditional agriculture in order to involve a wider audience and promote more innovation in the sector. We should also be finding opportunities to bring young people to the heart of our food system – the farms – to spark a stronger personal connection with agriculture. Seeing is believing!
I couldn’t agree more. It’s so important to get people involved in the dialogue, asking questions and seeking answers. For some, agriculture might not be an obvious career path, but there is such potential for growth there. What can agricultural companies, like Bayer, do to ensure your generation finds value in agriculture?
Kamau: Education is one of the biggest contributions a company like Bayer can give to youth, especially in developing areas. Providing extension programs, hosting education events, and investing in outreach and training opportunities in rural communities are important ways to keep youth engaged and informed about agriculture.
Pietro: Finding more ways to involve youth in the sector, looking for opportunities to have a two-way conversation, and giving them a chance to propose their own ideas and solutions. The YouthAg Summit was a great opportunity for this, but hosting localized summits would be a good way to bring people together to discuss regionally-specific challenges and opportunities.
We certainly understand those regional challenges as we’re establishing ForwardFarms around the world, and we agree that trainings, dialogue and demonstrations on active farms can only continue to be fruitful by involving our future generations of farmers. After talking to you two gentlemen, I think our future looks bright!
I hope that my conversation with these two savvy young “AgVocates” is just one example of many that are occurring around the world on a daily basis. Bayer’s ForwardFarming initiative is able to demonstrate sustainable agriculture in practice, but to ensure innovation continues to evolve, we need to pique the bright minds of our next generation to continue challenging, and changing the way we look at modern agriculture.
Click here to learn more about Bayer’s ForwardFarming initiative.