(BPT) – Smartphone? Check. GPS? Check. Seed, fertilizer and tractor? Check. Welcome to the world of modern agriculture, where high-tech is the rule and savvy millennials are in demand as U.S. agriculture embraces the many challenges of feeding a growing world.
From planters guided by GPS to corn and soybeans with built-in resistance to insects, today’s agriculture is a far cry from Old McDonald’s farm or the pitch-fork-wielding couple of American Gothic. Many of the technological advances in modern agriculture rival the smartest smartphones and the most intuitive interfaces.
Imagine drones that scout for pests, farm machinery that decides where fertilizer is needed or harvest equipment that steers itself. Then there are plants that “sense” when weeds get too close, “turn a switch” when they need to conserve water, and produce their own “pheromones” to ward off insects and diseases. It’s the kind of high-tech stuff that’s the perfect match for millennials, often defined as people born between 1982 and 2004.
Getting to know them
Currently, more than half of our nation’s farmers are at least 55 years old. However, as these farmers retire over the next few years, millennials – America’s largest demographic and arguably our most tech savvy – will likely be taking their place.
Many companies that hope to supply this new generation of farmers with goods and services are getting ready for the transition. Syngenta has already launched a training initiative designed to help its employees build trust, improve service and strengthen partnerships with younger customers and coworkers. The training gives participants a better understanding of who millennials are and what’s important to them.
“Millennials are one of the most talked about but least understood generations,” says Gil Strader, head of field force excellence and training at Syngenta. “We’re finding fascinating insights that can help bridge this generation knowledge gap.”
Research reveals that younger growers in the agricultural industry are:
High–tech and high–touch
Young growers take more innovative risks than their older counterparts, but personal relationships are just as important to them as the latest technology. Many prefer phone calls and in-person meetings over the digital dialogue so dominant today.
While only 33 percent of American 35- to 44-year-olds have a bachelor’s degree, 57 percent of young growers do. Eleven percent of them even have a master’s degree or higher. It’s the highest level of education among U.S. farmers to date.
Due to increasing farming complexity, millennials are making significant decisions at younger ages than their predecessors – decisions worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. In fact, two-thirds are the primary decision makers for their operations, from seeds to marketing.
To no one’s surprise, millennials use the Internet to gather information from diverse sources. Young farmers are hungry for information – information to help them make smart business decisions. It’s not enough to simply know how to do something: They want to know why.
Millennials view farming as a business and a lifestyle. They are very serious about what they’re trying to accomplish on the job, but they also want to have a high quality of life outside work.
These findings debunk the myth that the millennial generation is self-absorbed, indecisive and addicted to social media. As a group, young farmers are serious decision makers who crave connection, communication and a sense of purpose. To learn more about millennials and other agricultural trends, go to www.syngentathrive.com.