Mia’s friend Ewan is a specialist in sustainable innovations in agriculture, and she’s asked him to put some information together for the Engineering Industry Booth. Explore Ewan’s contributions…
Part of Mia’s role as the Engineering and Safety Advisor for the Salty Creek Community Festival is organising the Engineering Industry Booth. She knows that many of the attendees come from farming communities and will be interested in information related to agriculture. Mia has reached out to her good friend, Ewan, who works for an agricultural technology (AgTech) company specialising in sustainability, and has asked him to contribute to the booth.
Ewan is keen to take part – talking about using tech to make sustainable change in agriculture is his passion. He and Mia meet up over coffee to talk about how they will include information about agricultural innovation at the industry booth. They decide to focus on three main topics:
- How new technologies are solving problems in the agricultural industry
- the types of engineers who work in AgTech, and what they do
- how AgTech contributes to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
They start by putting together a presentation that will be shared on a screen at the booth while Ewan is there to answer visitors’ questions.
Ewan and Mia are hoping that after visitors to the booth have learnt a bit about the exciting developments in AgTech, they might be inspired to consider pursuing a career in engineering.
As Ewan says;
“A good engineer loves solving problems. They’re interested in how things work and how to make them better, and they generally have a good understanding of science, maths, and design. They’re vital players in the agriculture industry and the progress it’s making towards sustainability.”
Mia and Ewan decide to write brief descriptions of the various engineering roles related to technology and sustainability in the agriculture industry.
Agricultural engineers have a deep knowledge of how farms work, and often have a background in the agricultural industry. They can advise companies on how engineering principles and technology can be applied to solve agricultural issues. They might also be involved in designing machinery and processes, and the day-to-day operations and supervision of farms.
Environmental engineers are the sustainability specialists. They work on designing systems that help conserve resources, minimise waste, and reduce environmental impact. They might then work with farmers to implement these systems successfully.
Mechanical engineers design and develop machinery, tools, and equipment for various agricultural applications, like tractors and harvesters, and smart irrigation systems.
Electrical and electronics engineers design and develop electronic systems for various agricultural applications. They create electronic devices and systems that help improve efficiency and automate agricultural processes. So, while the mechanical engineer builds the irrigation system, the electrical engineers work on its automation. Electrical engineers work on the energy systems that power farms, often using renewable energy to improve sustainability and efficiency in agriculture.
Software engineers design and build the software programs and applications that help manage and analyse data related to agricultural operations. So, as the mechanical engineer builds the irrigation system and the electronic engineer automates it, the software engineer creates the program that helps farmers collect and understand the data.
Chemical engineers develop and optimise chemical processes. They work on developing solutions for fertiliser production and other agricultural processes that involve chemical reactions. This can involve developing products that are safer and more environmentally friendly, which can then be used in precision agriculture.
Which of these engineering roles sound the most interesting to you? Why?
Mia and Ewan met while doing a Sustainable Operations course, so she knows that it’s a topic of interest for him. She asks him about how his industry contributes to sustainable development.
“I find so much passion in my role because I’m helping farmers make their work more sustainable and preparing them to respond to natural disasters. And in turn, these changes also contribute to preventing future environmental disasters. The technology that AgTech companies develop, and the research that’s done into sustainable agricultural technology, will have a huge global impact on so many levels!”
“I know you’re aware of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Well, work being done in the AgTech area will, and already is, going a long way towards making a significant positive contribution to several of the SDGs.”
Mia and Ewan put together and interactive visual for the booth on how advancements in agricultural technology are contributing to the SDGs.
Mia is pleased with the content she and Ewan have put together for the booth, and she’s also learnt a lot. She wants to know even more about agriculture technology and engineering in Australia. After all, the Aussie agricultural industry is valued at over $71b, and 50% of Australian land is used for agricultural purposes – including a fair amount of the Salty Shire region where she lives. Mia is sure that the visitors to the booth will find the info exciting and also relevant to their lives. Hopefully, they’ll be keen to start careers in the industry, or, at the very least, tell their families about the sustainable innovations in agriculture.
ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) (2022) Value of Aussie Agriculture hits $71 billion in 2020-2021, ABS, Canberra, accessed 3 May 2021. https://www.abs.gov.au/articles/value-aussie-agriculture-hits-71-billion-2020-21
Can you think of any examples of how environmental issues have impacted agriculture in Australia?
How did that impact affect different people’s daily lives?
For example, consider a time when a farm-produced item was expensive or hard to find in supermarkets because of an event negatively affecting farming regions.
Read the list below and think about some ways these things might impact agriculture and global societies:
- dependence on fossil fuels
- climate change
- water scarcity
- water pollution
- loss of biodiversity
- soil degradation.
How do these issues relate to the UN SDGs mentioned above?
Example: “To remove dependence on fossil fuels we’ll need to use more renewable energy. That could relate to SDG 9 and sustainable industrialisation because…”
Climate change and sustainable development are topics that affect modern society and will only become more important in coming years. Problems and innovations in an industry like agriculture are not isolated from other areas. They also impact industries like information technology, trade, retail, hospitality, and tourism. They even play a role in politics. Understanding the relationship between sustainable development and any industry builds your sustainability literacy. This will help you contribute to important conversations about trade, the economy, and global issues. It makes you a valuable employee and gives you the knowledge to make informed decisions and positive choices for yourself and your community.
- Mia and Ewan aren’t the only ones interested in how technological innovations can make industries more sustainable. James is highlighting the sustainable benefits of health technology (15 to 20 minutes) over on his blog.
- A local agricultural company is hiring! Explore the Mechanical Engineer position (5 to 10 minutes) to learn more about this type of job and its prerequisites. To find out more about other types of engineering positions, check out the booth’s job board.
Learn more on Learning Lab
AgTech or AgriTech is short for Agricultural Technology. It refers to the use of scientific techniques and innovative technologies that aim to improve the efficiency, profitability, and sustainability of the agriculture industry.
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals are a collection of goals with targets and methods, shared by a global partnership of developed and developing nations. They focus on a range of interconnected issues and aim to improve sustainability and quality of life globally.
A person who possesses the knowledge, skills, and mindset of sustainability literacy recognises the importance of building a sustainable future. They can make informed and effective decisions to this end by considering a balance between social wellbeing, economic stability, and care for the environment.