Digital Farming: How Young Farmers are Changing the Future of Agriculture

Bazil Jabuto

March 24, 2022

Farming is the direct way to solve the world’s food systems crisis. As food systems become complex and the world’s population increases, and with a declining average age of farmers, the youth are strategically placed to uptake and improve farming. 

But they have to adopt modern farming methods, also called digital farming, for better results.

So, today we’re looking at how young farmers are changing the future of agriculture and food systems through the digital space. 

Why’s Kikao64 Interested in Youth and Digital Farming?

Located at the heart of Eldoret town, Kikao64 creates a collaborative and engaging work environment for people to share resources and make meaningful connections. The Kikao64  co-working space and services are available to people at least 16 years of age. But that’s not all.

Kikao64 hub offers more than workspace. The community includes young farmers and agripreneurs involved in different value chains in food systems. These young people seek information, skill, knowledge, networks, and mentorship to promote their ventures and contribute to sustainable food systems.  Kikao64 is best-placed to give the youth a digital space for learning,  networking and to further the discussion of opportunities in agribusiness and food systems. 

Role of youth in Agriculture

First, it’s common knowledge that the youth are the future of food systems – from farm to folk. Why?

Why are the Youth the Future in Food Systems?

There are several reasons. The key ones are:

  1. Aging farming population. The average age of the current farmer is 60 years old. The generation of farmers and getting old and more workforce is needed to support farming and food systems.
  2. Increasing world population and food demands. The population of the world is growing, currently standing at 7.6 Billion. All these people will need sustainable food and support systems
  3. The youth dividend. The youth population (15-34 years old) forms 60% of Kenya’s population. They are the world’s opportunity to solve the problem of capital – such as labor, skills, education, etc. – in agriculture and food systems.
  4. Employment. Agriculture and food systems are the largest employers in Kenya’s economy, employing over 60% of Kenya’s workforce in different informal, formal, and entrepreneurship sectors. There’s a largely untapped reservoir of employment opportunities in the agri-food systems that the youth are better placed to exploit. 
  5. The digital age and ICT. The current youth have been born and bred in the age of the internet and information sharing. Their knowledge in technology and general ICT makes them play an important role in community representation, information sharing (for instance through social media), and bridging the gaps in farming innovation and technology.

But based on the previous trends, the youth have been shying away from agriculture and food systems. In fact, only 10% of the youth are engaged in food systems, and most of these are on the production side. 

Why are the youth shy to engage in agriculture?

Several reasons are most rooted in the perception that different stakeholders give agriculture.

  1. Perception. Many youths perceive farming as a last resort for failures or those who’ve failed to secure white-collar jobs and a shameful form of employment indicative of poverty. Due to the stigma of farming, the youth pour into towns and cities in search of jobs in an already saturated job market. The aging population of farmers leaves the food systems unattended and many of the youth unemployed or turning towards more illegitimate sources of income. But there’s more.
  2. Policy. The youth also lack a voice in the policy dialogue and most of the farming and food systems policies don’t favor them. Take land ownership, for example: 

Youths don’t own land for production, and while they could, inheritance laws don’t allow them. If they seek loans for land lease, banks and other financial institutions require hefty collateral, which the youth lack. 

  1. Unfavorable business environment. Hefty taxes, sometimes double taxation, are too costly. Access fees, commonly known as “cess” for accessing counties during transportation, are an example.
  2. Unfavorable markets. The issue of middlemen (market intermediaries) is so rooted in the food systems that they control prices, transportation, and markets. Without “connection” and bending to the middlemen’s demands, the youth often find their produce fetching low prices or sometimes not reaching the market. 
  3. Poor knowledge and Extension. Today, most governments provide “extension on-demand”, leaving the youth who cannot reach government offices unattended. This leads to below-standard produce and sometimes a lack of engagement in favorable marketing systems. 

How will the future of Agriculture Look?

The future of agriculture is digital. Digital farming means applying new technologies in farming such as digital communication, data science, automation, mechanization, and advanced sensors in the field and from space to enable them to produce more food, with fewer resources in a more responsible way. This gives more farmers access to better insights to take more optimal decisions, drive up yield, reduce waste, and drive up wealth – especially for the youth and in rural areas.

In crop nutrition, for instance, digital farming means finding the optimum fertilization and spraying program for individual fields. In marketing, it means using digital communication platforms to market produce. 

Some key traits of the future of agriculture are:

  • Productivity. There is a need to produce much more food, with fewer resources in a more responsible way, and unlock yield reserves to sustainably feed a growing population. This will mean smarter farming, resilience to climate change, and more food production.
  • Connectivity. Connection and communication are taking shape in farming and food systems. Different devices and technology will collect information and enable direct optimized application: the “internet of things” on the farm.
  • Technology. We’re seeing a highly dynamic environment, with fast-developing technologies, and substantial changes to the way we farm.  Digital Farming applications are set to shape food systems. 

It’s difficult to predict the future, but there’s an exciting future, with many opportunities for young farmers to explore and exploit.

What are the Youth Doing to Change the Future of Agriculture?

Young agripreneurs are the driving force behind the new farming revolution. Many young agripreneurs are trying to reverse the stigma by professionalizing farming and transforming it into a more lucrative and attractive employment option for the youth.

So, what are the youth doing?

Their answer is in policy, technology, and innovation. 

  1. Policy

The youth are making their voices heard and theirs is a voice of change. Through networks and support from those in policy positions, youths are forming different policy advocacy forums to address their needs and involvement in food systems. They want a favorable business environment, non-discriminatory land ownership and credit laws, and good market structures. In Kenya, this has yielded the KENYA YOUTH AGRIBUSINESS STRATEGY 2018 -2022, which seeks to address these issues and more.

  1. Technology

The youth have found themselves deep in technology and using different tech tools to support them in farming. At different levels, youth are engaged in food systems using technology such as mobile, laptops, GPS, and different apps to support their engagement in farming and food systems. Technology, particularly social media, has helped the youth in exchanging information, learning, networking, and Extension. 

On Facebook, for example, there are different pages for farmers per region and all over the country. Good examples are the large farmers networking groups are #FarmersTrendKenya, Kenya Farmers Digital Market, Eldoret Dairy Farmers Association,  Rift Valley Hay Growers, Agro Minds Africa Challenge, Digital farmers Kenya, and many more. These groups are youth-dominated and give them a platform to market their produce, share weather and climate information, as well as find and share knowledge, input, Extension, and skills.

  1. Innovation 

Youth are adopting new technology innovations that can help mitigate the effects of climate change and grow more food with less input. Things like greenhouse production, hydroponics, feedlots, intensive irrigation farming are common among youths. There are apps and farmers’ programs on TVs that support youth engagement in agriculture. Youth seek more opportunities to be climate resilient and improve food production. 

However, a lack of extension services has meant youth farmers have been unable to access or afford most of these new innovations.

It’s clear that a younger generation can help introduce and adopt new technologies whilst also learning from traditional methods for better food systems. This makes the youth hold the potential to offer the perfect fusion of new and traditional solutions to some of the world’s biggest challenges.

A Chance to Make a Difference

Farming and food systems offer the youth a chance to make a difference by changing the face of farming through technology, changing agriculture’s perception, and growing enough food to feed the world. Even with the many challenges, if youths get enough attention to food systems in terms of financial inclusion, a voice at policy, engagement in innovations, and extension capacity, then the agriculture industry can attract more youth again. As Kenya seeks to find solutions to youth employment and feed the nation, young entrepreneurs working in food systems can help achieve this agenda.

One more thing – Book Space

When choosing a co-working space, you need a flexible and functional workspace that offers comfort, connectivity, and networking alongside ambient office space like Kikao64. Kikao64 is a flexible and creative coworking space and an incubator for Eldoret’s new high-tech community of entrepreneurs, start-ups, nonprofits, freelancers, creatives, and athletes. We offer beautifully designed and ergonomically mindful modern offices and meeting rooms for individuals & companies of all sizes. Book a Space online or walk in and take a tour to enjoy the best working environment. 


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