Farming Jobs of the Future

Hydrogels, drones, networks and sensors are all the new buzzwords in the future of South African agriculture.

Anyone who is interested in studying agriculture has an exciting future ahead of them because technology is about to create a 20x – fold leap in the agricultural market within the next 10 years.

As with many of our learning models at FutureProofMe, we believe that studying the base stuff (the degree) plus premium based skills (digital and transferable) is a really clever way of preparing for the future – at least from a learning point of view.

Studying a BSc or similar in Agriculture, plus specialising in Hydrogels (it’s coming), plus learning about drones, networks and sensors and then throwing in some Transferable skills like Project Management, Creativity and Critical Thinking (and maybe an entrepreneurship course) will put you in an extremely powerful position. (Apart from the degree, we’ll show you how to get all these other skills learned whilst you are at school!)

Let’s unpack this and take a closer look at what’s coming:


A research team at the University of Texas in the US has developed a hydrogel that when mixed with soil captures humidity from the air at night and then releases water during the day to irrigate the surrounding soil and promote plant growth.

That’s amazing. Think of how much arid land we have in this country. And think about how much land we lose to desertification. We can reclaim some of this land and plant vegetation, without having to set up any irrigation.

Expect to see commercialisation of this to scale in 3-5 years. As a result, an exciting new range of jobs will appear in this space.


Drones, with artificial intelligence (AI), are now being mainstreamed for smart farming helping farmers in a range of tasks from analysis and planning to the actual planting of crops, and the subsequent monitoring of fields to ascertain health and growth. Farmers can “almost” sit on their stoep with a laptop and “farm”. Ok, that may be romanticising things a bit but I think you get the picture.

According to Precision AG, “The use of drones in the agriculture industry is steadily growing to assist in sustainable agricultural management and allows agronomists, agricultural engineers, and farmers to help streamline their operations, using robust data analytics to gain effective insights into their crops. What we eat can be accurately traced from farm to fork using GPS locations for every point in the journey, rather than more traditional time and labour-intensive data collection.”

Networks and Sensors:

Wireless Sensors and Networks or WSN is now being used for monitoring crops, measuring temperature, managing irrigation systems, measuring water supply and other critical factors. WSN helps the farmer produce a crop with high quantity and reduce the cost of yield. Agriculture is affected by climatic and environmental change and natural disasters, and so by using WSN, soil and water management becomes easier, cheaper and quicker, all resulting in more optimal crops.

Of course, there are other new technologies that are coming into the picture, such as AV EV (Autonomous Electric Vehicles) machinery, smart energy creation and distribution and robotic assistance. And with China’s latest announcement on solar panels in (outer) space beaming back energy to earth, we may be looking at a 10x cheaper way to get our power. Boy – how welcome would that be here in South Africa!

So all in all we think that the future of jobs in agriculture in South Africa will be very different, but will look very healthy (and green

Alan Tait

co-CEO & Strategist