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The future of farming: integrating tradition and tech

Thomas Mountain

What will farming look like in 20 years’ time? As we move more online, will there be a greater focus on software? How will inputs and outputs differ? What will be future farmers’ requirements? To help find answers, Richard Anscombe, of Agri-Tech East Stakeholder Group, set up the Fram Farmers Next Generation Council.

The Next Generation Council, alongside initiatives like the Young Innovators’ Forum, aims to offer younger farmers across East Anglia – and further afield – networks for information-sharing, upskilling and ideas.

Thomas Mountain is one of four 20-somethings who manage the Council. We asked him to share what he is hearing from the next generation.

Staying ahead of the times

I don’t think it’s an unfair generalisation to say that the younger generation are more technologically interested and astute. One of the roles of the Next Generation Council is to capture those views and ensure they are heard now, as opposed to in 20 years’ time when they might take over the business.

It is important to have that insight coming through, as the earlier technology can be brought into agriculture the better.

Drone spraying and soil mapping are still in their infancy, but over the next 5 years this technology will increase exponentially in terms of quality and decrease on the cost, becoming much more readily available.

The earlier technology can be brought into agriculture the betterBut having a current understanding of this technology is key. We all know farmers have to plan 2 or 3 years in advance and it is extremely important to consider the latest technological developments now, just to make sure we are going to stay with the times.

Everything is going online: you go to any meeting now and, regardless of how old attendees are, they will get their laptops out and phones set up before the meeting starts. People are constantly checking emails, Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp to ensure they don’t miss out on anything.

We are an information-hungry generation and we want to ensure we’re kept constantly updated.

Upskilling to achieve the best in British agriculture

For us, building community is as important as exploring new technology. A big part of that is communication, that’s not just online, but face-to-face communication too. Everything from conversations around succession to negotiation tactics.

If you’ve grown up on a farm, you might have always known you are going to farm, but you might never have been in a position to have had a bit of training on how to look at people or have someone say to you, “That’s good, but if you did just this differently it would put you in a slightly stronger positon”.

Like Agri-Tech East, and many other agricultural organisations, our goal is to have the best British agriculture that we can. We have to have the most forward thinking agriculturalists, the most profitable farms and a really well-educated, well trained, disciplined generation of farmers coming through to back all of that up.

Becoming a driving force

Technology is in every other industry, but in some ways the farming industry is behind when we should be at the forefront.

The amount of technology employed in agriculture, the amount of knowledge, the amount of mechanics; we need to flip it around from picking up the pieces at the end of technological innovations to agriculture being the real driving force.

If you are part of the younger generation of farmers, young at heart, or would just like to find out more about Agri-Tech East’s work, sign up for our Young Innovators’ Forum newsletter.