Hungry for a career in food and farming? The STEM opportunities are endless

Next-gen farmers are flying drones and rocking wearable tech. Image: Shutterstock

People have always needed to eat, but with ever-evolving consumer behaviour, new tech developments and modern challenges like food security to face, the food and farming industry has been anything but static. Here, we look at the impact of AgTech and modern production practices on traditional careers in health, nutrition, production, framing and research.

Old Macdonald had a smart farm

Forget the tractor-driving flannel-wearing stereotype – next-gen farmers are harvesting data and rocking wearable tech! Thanks to satellite geo-positioning systems creating
opportunities for farmers to engage in quality control off-site, agricultural gigs are no longer only land-bound and involve a host of new – and exciting – tech developments.

What’s new? Monitoring animals with fitness trackers, using apps like CSIRO’s soilmapp to store and share data, automated milking – and feeding –and using genomic tools to evaluate the genetic code of crops! With Aussie growers producing almost 93 percent of Australia’s daily domestic food supply, anything that increases productivity is key.

What skills are needed? Solid smarts in app and software development, Artifical Intelligence (AI), data science and engineering!

RELATED: 3D food printing

Food security = job security

One of the biggest challenges facing the global food and farming industry is food security – maintaining adequate access to food and water when up against climate change, changing world markets, population growth and finite resources. And with Australia positioned to play an increasing role in driving industry innovation, it’s estimated we’ll need 2000 agriculture grads each year to meet demand.

What’s new? Innovation in weed and drought suppression, pollinator decline and sustainable development, along with practical adaptation strategies – like GM crops and lab-grown meat – to ensure the viability of resources in threatened communities.

What skills are needed? Engineers with backgrounds in health and agriculture have become increasingly sought after in developing nations and disaster-relief teams.

RELATED: Food technology

Food science 2.0

Healthy eating used to mean stocking up on fresh fruit and veg but thanks to innovation in food processing, supermarkets are now packed with packaged products boasting equally powerful health benefits. Food scientists are maximising nutritional intake, upping a products shelf life and meeting increasing demand for better-for-you foods. And with Australia ranked sixth in the global food security index for excellence in food knowledge, global consumers are eating it up.

What’s new? Servicing customer-led dietary requirements with clean, green and ground-breaking food innovation! Companies like The Mighty Society are blowing up the plant-based dairy market with their ground-breaking ‘mylk’ product made from split peas.

What skills are needed? Strong science smarts – think: microbiology, biochemistry and chemistry – along with an advanced understanding of maths and nutrition.

This article originally appears in Careers with STEM: Science.

Cassie Steel

Author: Cassie Steel

As Refraction’s digital editor, Cassie Steel spends her days researching robots and stalking famous scientists on Twitter.


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