Goterra CEO and 2023 ACT Australian of the Year, Olympia Yarger shares her view on why agriculture’s tech evolution is overdue, and how to fix it. Here is her story.
What do you think of when you think of agriculture? For most, it conjures images of sun-hardened men and women (let’s face it, mostly men) working the land and battling the elements.
In 2023, agriculture’s image is shifting. From biotechnicians and marine scientists to agricultural engineers and economists, it’s no longer just about the traditional farmer. Tech is also playing an increasingly significant role in modern day agriculture, being used to increase outputs, improve efficiencies and build sustainability.
There’s plenty of opportunity for tech-savvy women to join the industry and make their mark. Currently 31% of people working in agriculture are women, a figure that’s been rising over the past two decades.
It’s time for agriculture to join the list of options for women to consider when searching for a challenging and fulfilling career in tech.
The changing state of agriculture in Australia
Some of the biggest challenges the world is facing are directly related to agriculture. Over the next decades, food security, sustainability and climate change will all play a major role in the long-term success of the industry. More pressingly, in research conducted by Roy Morgan in September 2022, ‘More than a quarter (26%) of Australian farmers identified inflation and costs among their biggest current challenges…’
The future of the agricultural industry hinges on a skilled workforce that can support the ever-changing needs of primary producers. It’s this diversity in the industry’s skill set that is going to be critical to its future growth. Encouragingly, those interested in a career in agriculture will be spoilt for choice. According to the latest research from Charles Sturt University’s Professor Jim Pratley there are upwards of six jobs for each agricultural graduate in the current market.
For those who grew up in Australia’s cities, this doesn’t mean leaving friends and family behind. Approximately 40% of agriculture jobs are in cities and most of them are off-farm.
The sustainability generation
There’s one generation that’s best placed to shepherd Australia into an era of sustainable agriculture. Generation Z currently believe that they are the generation that’s most concerned with the environmental impact of what they eat.
As Generation Z continues to enter the workforce, it will be their input and ideas that shape the future of agriculture and answer some of the most pressing challenges the industry is yet to face.
Getting Gen Z into agriculture
One regional enterprise is pulling out the stops to attract tech-savvy and socially minded Gen-Zs into the industry. AgriFutures Australia, an organisation dedicated to the long-term prosperity of Australian rural industries, along with Training Services NSW will host its inaugural Ag Industry Days on 21 June in Albury and 22 June in Wagga Wagga.
Students will have the opportunity to network with the best and brightest young minds in Australian agriculture. AgriFutures Australia hopes the event will inspire a new cohort to enter the industry and help solve some of the biggest challenges that will present themselves over the coming decades.
The Ag Industry Days will also challenge common preconceptions that you have to be a farmer, and living regionally, to work in the industry.
Tech’s time to shine is now
At a time when demand for food is only increasing, tech is going to play a critical role in how we feed the world’s growing population.
Reimagining agriculture and its opportunities will open up a world of exciting careers for those who can look beyond the common misconceptions of the industry.
Ag Industry Days took place on:
- Albury Ag Industry Day, Wednesday, 21 June
- Wagga Wagga Ag Industry Day, Thursday, 22 June
To learn more about AgriFutures commitment to recruiting younger generations into the agriculture industry head to their website here.
More about Olympia Yarger
2023 ACT Austalian of the Year Olympia Yarger is a climate action warrior, a maggot farmer and founder of the Insect Protein Association of Australia. She even had a fly named after her by the CSIRO (Hermetia Olympea, a soldier fly species from the Daintree rainforest).
The founder of agritech start-up Goterra, Olympia is an insect farming pioneer and has developed an innovative waste management system that uses maggots to process food waste and reduce greenhouse gases.
Her ‘Maggot Robot’ system houses larvae of the black soldier fly inside portable units. Food waste is fed to the maggots and, similar to a worm farm, the larvae’s excretions become fertiliser. The maggots themselves become protein-rich feed for livestock and aquaculture.
It’s already being used by Woolworths and in Sydney’s Barangaroo precinct. So far, Olympia’s system has processed more than 35,000 tonnes of waste and saved more than 66,000 tonnes of carbon emissions.