How STEM is Used in Agriculture
Audience: Middle and High School students
A countryside wheat harvest. Photo by TheDigitalArtist from Pixabay.
When we think of a farm, we usually picture the classic red barn, along with the herds of cattle, flocks of sheep, coops of chickens, and acres of land dedicated to the various crops awaiting harvest. While this is true to some extent, most of us think that farms are relatively basic, with minimal technology besides tractors and the occasional pick-up truck. Contrary to common belief, farms have advanced much further beyond the scope of basic tools and technologies.
Many people—myself included—take food and the advancements in the agricultural industry for granted. In today’s society, you can walk into any supermarket or grocery store at any time of year and buy all the fruits, vegetables, or dairy products you desire. Something like this would have never been possible one hundred years ago.
The modern farm is more similar to a factory or science lab than we realize.
Today’s farms are constantly looking to hire scientists who research, analyze, and develop better and safer products for consumers. Some farms have dozens of these scientists tasked with the editing of the DNA structure of their crops in order to produce Genetically Modified Organisms, more commonly known as GMOs. In fact, the majority of the fruits and vegetables that we buy at the grocery store are genetically modified in some way or another. Thanks to GMOs, farmers are better able to protect their crops from harmful insects, prevent the rotting and spoiling of foods over prolonged periods, increase the yield of the crops, and improve the flavor of their produce. Despite these benefits, however, some argue that GMOs are detrimental to our health and should not be used or consumed in large quantities.
While GMOs have been revolutionary in the agricultural industry, they are not the only monumental technological feat in the agricultural industry.
Other technologies such as the GPS (Global Positioning System), computer-automated farming equipment, and fuel-efficient farm vehicles have greatly maximized the benefits and profits of the agricultural industry. They maximize the yield of the entire farming process and decrease the level of emissions and waste.
A scientist analyzing data collected from the tested GMOs. Photo by ThisisEngineering from Unsplash.
Factors such as increased consumption of plant-based diets and the rebirth of plant-derived medicine bring the fields of agriculture and STEM closer together, and they will only become more intertwined as time goes on. In fact, these two concepts have already been combined to create a new field: agri-science! This new field of study will incorporate both the worlds of STEM and agriculture. What’s more, students are gaining more opportunities to explore and engage with agri-science. For instance, 4-H—America’s largest youth development organization & nonprofit—provides a lot of content pertaining not only to agri-science, but also to computer science, veterinary science, environmental science, robotics, entrepreneurship, and much more! They offer interactive online programs that are perfect for those curious to delve deeper into the world of STEM.
Elliott, Kristopher. “Is Ag the Answer to STEM?” American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture - Homepage, 25 Aug. 2016, www.agfoundation.org/news/is-ag-the-answer-to-stem.
“H STEM & Agriculture Programs for Youth.” 4, 3 Dec. 2020, 4-h.org/parents/stem-agriculture/.
Leeper, Courtney. “The STEM of Agriculture.” Noble Research Institute, 11 Oct. 2018, www.noble.org/news/publications/legacy/2018/fall/the-stem-of-agriculture/.