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Agricultural human capital – some thoughts from Jo Marshall

Joanne Marshall is the Project Manager and CEO of the Australian Agricultural Centre, the Centre of Excellence for Education and Demonstration of Agricultural Products and Processes.

Jo recently penned the following thoughts on the merit of human capital in the agricultural sector. . .

“For four years I have been researching the need for the Australian Agricultural Centre.

There has been a clear and continuous message “where are we going to find the next generation of farmers” & “how do we demonstrate the careers involved in agriculture”.

It is hard to encourage the next generation to want to be involved in agriculture when the industry is struggling with droughts, floods, the recent vegan movement, and the negative press that surrounds these issues.  But, we need to double our food production by 2050, and while investment is made in research and innovation we continue to require people to be farmers.

In comparison to the “farming heyday” we have a very small percentage of people who work on the land and produce our food.  Is this because we have become more sustainable and efficient in our farming? Or are the costs of living and operations so high, and the returns so low that farmers can’t afford the people required to run a sustainable business

The Australian Agricultural Centre wants to build a better understanding of food and fibre production and help consumers to appreciate producers. If you have been able to travel overseas you will understand how lucky Australians are to have fresh food available to us and to be able to afford this fine produce.

We need to build on the exposure of agriculture and to encourage the next generation to see the vast opportunities that are available.  The Australian Agricultural Centre will showcase these opportunities and “plant the seed” to a future in agriculture. We need to invest in building that human capital and to showcase how amazing and diverse our second largest industry is.

If we are to double production to feed our population in 2050 we must build on the human capital needed to produce this food. We have seen amazing developments in innovation and technology.  We are so much more efficient with the equipment we have at our disposal.  This a truly exciting industry for current and following generations.

The average age of agricultural workers in currently 56.  We need a balance in building the people who will become our future farmers, who will develop innovation and technology and who have the skills to operate, manage and run agriculture of the future.”