Global Megatrends and Industry Division A
Updated: Nov 11, 2021
Change. Its with us always, but more so in today’s world. And for someone who is exploring career or business prospects in the agriculture, forestry or fishing industries, some insights from a futurist might provide some food for thought. What follows is just that – a perspective on what could be.
While there are several long-term megatrends shaping life and economies, I just want to focus on two – computerisation and climate change. Other ones – including demographic trends (between 2015 and 2030 the proportion across the world of those who are more than 60 years old is expected to grow by over 50% to 1.4 billion people), and societal trends (increasing diversity due to pluralism and individualism), may not have as significant an impact upon careers and business as the two in this article’s spotlight.
About the global megatrend of climate change
We are witnessing shifts in weather patterns, increases in ocean temperatures, and rising rates of abnormally high seasonal temperatures. Shifts that impact harvest yields and interrupt the annual rhythms of fauna and flora.
Unless there is a globally significant and sustained effort at combating climate change, we will witness a continuing increase in land and ocean temperatures over the coming years. Likewise with the frequency and duration of land and marine heatwaves. And not forgetting the increasing intensity and frequency of heavy precipitation.
About the global megatrend of computerisation
We are also witnessing the inexorable rise in the processing power of computers. This axiom is based on Moore’s Law, the well-founded observation that computing power effectively doubles every two years while its price halves over the same time period. Because of this law a standard laptop computer in 2030 will be at least 30 times more powerful than the ones in use today. And, with this ability to process much more data and at a faster rate, the performance of all information technology in 2030 will be substantially greater than today.
Inextricably linked to Moore’s Law is the growing ubiquity of automation. Now, as the replacement of routine tasks is one of the key effects of automation. Its not just repetitive blue-collar tasks that can be subject to an algorithm – we’ve seen the introduction in recent times of so-called “legal robots”, of software fully writing articles and preparing video for news media, and of computers taking care of some medical diagnostic tasks.
And this is before we even start to consider the promise of quantum computing.
The impact of these two influences
So, what will these two global megatrends do to the industries of agriculture, forestry and fishing?
Climate change will continue to have a negative impact upon income (eg. profits are down by 22% in Australia over the last 20 years). It will impact, for example, water availability, farming techniques, crop yield, livestock viability and the sustainability of fish stocks. To ensure ongoing success, adaptation will be the critical stance. More than likely the stock from which profit for each of these three sub-sectors is derived will change geographically over the next 10 years (eg. as a region’s average temperature rises different crops will be planted, or due to warming water the region where particular fish species are found will shift).
Regarding increasing computational power, processes will change. Whether from sensors of the physical environment, or from a range of unique economic and population information sources, the abundance of data will be a significant influencing factor. And just as we’ll be using more sensors to help us understand the real world, we’ll be using more actuators and motors to help us move through it – think drones, robots and automated vehicles. Not forgetting the complex algorithms contained in the software and the power of the computer chips to process, report and act upon those data sets.
Both climate change and computerisation will significantly influence the way business operates in these industry divisions in the years ahead.
What are your prospects
From the preceding, and from a career perspective, there are several observations that can be made:
If you are more the “get it done” type: you’ll be faced with longer stretches of warmer weather, but you’ll be using increasingly complex machines and software to get your work done\
If you are more the “thinking” type: there’ll be a greater need to analyse more data in order to plan for what you should grow and where you should fish
If you are more the “creative” type: using powerful digital tools you’ll be testing and offering workable climate-related mitigation and resilience measures
If you are more the “helper” type: you’ll be needed more as those whose sources of income are from the land and sea face the long-term weather pressures brought about by climate change
If you are more the “leader” type: you’ll be needing to improve your skills of persuasion and your ability to deliver data-based solutions as climactic conditions change
If you are more the “structure” type: you’ll be faced with using RegTech to help you navigate an increasing amount of environmental regulations and carbon-style trading markets
Overall, in the years ahead you’ll need to comfortable with both using more computing and not doing some things that previous generations did.
From a business perspective, when it comes to responding to climate change its all about mitigation and resilience. When it comes to computerisation its all about automation and using data. So, whether you would provide goods and services to this industry division, or you a direct market participant, likely impacts are:
Mitigation: changing species being harvested
Resilience: improving resources usage efficiency
Automation: increase use of robotics across the value chain
Data analysis: more surface and drone-mounted sensors, better resource management
Overall, and quite obviously, for businesses there are both risks to be aware of and opportunities to exploit in the change that is happening.
The global megatrends of climate change and computerisation are impacting life and economies in profound ways. Yes there are challenges just as much as there are prospects for profit, but to paraphrase the words of Heraclitus, that ancient Greek Philosopher, “the only thing constant in life is change”.
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