The future of agriculture: why unis must prepare students to secure both our food and our planet


Agriculture will soon be worth A$100 billion a year to Australia. The industry employs more than 250,000 people, stewards 80% of our land area and drives world-class agribusiness and food sectors.

In Australia about 300 to 400 students graduate with some form of agriculture degree each year but the number of graduated students per university each year is declining. As a growth sector with many jobs on offer, why does it lack appeal for students? Part of the problem is social as people don’t associate agriculture with high-technology science and genetics to produce the best meat or crops.

To attract the best school leavers, it is vital to offer students is as exciting, diverse and challenging. Graduates will also need strong statistical and experimental design skills to manage the science and economics of agriculture and they’ll have to manage big data sets to make informed decisions and optimise farm production. The rise of digital agriculture will further increase use of technology and data for decision-making along the entire supply chain from farm to consumer and for this reason graduates must be aware of how digital technologies can be used to add value to farm outputs.

Universities must continue to listen and work with industry and consumers and be responsive to global trends and concerns as agriculture will remain a growth industry. Careful management and investment in preparing students for the future of agriculture will ensure they can be tomorrow’s leaders of positive change and opportunity for the planet.

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