Why Revolutionizing Farming Should Be the Next Space Race

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

For a few fleeting minutes each, some billionaire earthlings were able to leave the problems of Earth behind. The smoke and fire from their rockets launched them just beyond the entrance to space, where the panorama of an imperfect world stretched out below.

“To the next generation of dreamers — if we can do this, just imagine what you can do,” said Virgin CEO , before unclipping his seatbelt and floating from his chair.

Here on the ground below, I couldn’t help but be impressed by their accomplishments. I know many people have been critical of the so-called billionaire space race, but I’ll admit — I am a longtime Richard Branson fan. And despite all the criticism of this mission, it is truly inspiring to see what humans can achieve when they are willing to take tremendous risks and throw huge amounts of money behind a problem.

If we can tackle private space travel, imagine what we could do for one of the most crucial problems here on Earth.

I’m talking about production.

We could localize supply chains all over the planet — taking a bite out of world hunger and solving massive problems to combat climate change. 

Sure, space is cool, but here’s why I hope the next generation of dreamers focus on how to future-proof the way we farm.

We can’t keep eating this way

First of all, food production is a problem that affects us all. No industry in the world touches more people in perpetuity than agriculture, and the pressures are only intensifying as the population grows. By 2050, we’ll share the planet with 10 billion people while arable land continues to decline due to urbanization and industrialization. Simply put, the way we feed the world is not sustainable.

It’s also not equitable. An estimated 811 million people did not have adequate access to food in 2020. That’s nearly 10% of the global population in need of dire help, while obesity rates have soared in parts of the world where food is in excess. To make matters worse, privileged countries have appalling amounts of food going in the trash after food travels thousands of miles to reach its destination.

Lastly, it’s unstable. Last year’s hunger stats represent a dramatic increase from the previous year and is due in part to volatility in supply chains during the Covid-19 pandemic. Many countries depend on imports to survive and their supply of food can be dashed by disease, natural disasters or conflict. By 2050, more than half the world’s population will rely on food sourced outside their country. As climate change becomes a climate crisis, these problems are only expected to get worse.

Related: Having A Farming Background Gives These 8 Agritech Entrepreneurs An Edge Over Others

Technology will help feed the world

What if we put a concerted effort into localizing food production all around the world, while drastically reducing the amount of land, water and chemicals needed? We could cut down on imported in areas of excess, and eliminate shortages in areas of need.

The good news is that some big dreamers are working to solve these problems, and there’s tremendous upside for everyone involved. 

Here’s why people like Branson, Bezos and Musk should be paying attention.

First, technology is changing the way people have farmed for generations. In Canada, for example, 80% of farmers under the age of 40 are using technology to find efficiencies and improve sustainability. Farmers are shattering the old-school perception of their industry by adopting incredible technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning to maximize efficiencies. From self-driving tractors to crop-monitoring drones and automated indoor growing modules, agriculture has become as much sci-fi as it ever was old western.

This technology isn’t just futuristic. It’s all in use right now, thanks to major advancements in recent years. The ag-tech industry is booming with more than $5 billion in investment in 2020, and even more expected this year. There’s still a prevailing feeling within the industry, however, that it hasn’t reached a pinnacle yet.

But rest assured, it’s coming. Investment in green funds went through the roof during the pandemic as people began asking themselves how they can use their money to do some good. Factor in the rise of Gen Z users and their generational drive to effect change through impact investing, and the future of sustainable industries is looking bright. As the CEO of an ag-tech company, I’m regularly hearing from new investors who feel good about investing whatever they can — even as little as $20 — to help the cause.

Related: This Is How Digitization is Going to Change Farming Forever

While it’s truly amazing to see what can be accomplished in outer space, most people don’t have the luxury of looking that far for obstacles to conquer. We’ve been through a dramatic period in human history — sickness, heatwaves, fires and floods. It’s all leading to significant momentum in the agricultural technology world and we’re hearing about breakthroughs on the regular.

The dreamers that will revolutionize farming might not be named Richard, Jeff or Elon — but fellas, if you’re reading this, don’t hesitate to give me a call.

Related: It’s Time For the Future of Farming to Be a Dinner Table Topic