Todays’ agriculture is going through an important revolution. From tech breakthroughs like smart irrigation to robot-enabled harvesting, the industry is using new innovations to help feed a growing population. And it’s a big job. The United Nations says global food output must increase by 60 percent over the next three decades to keep up with the boom.
As modern farming evolves, a diverse range of players is stepping up to this challenge with unique approaches to growing sustainable food.
There’s Bill Horan, a farmer for decades, who continuously adapts and embraces new technologies, with an eye toward helping future generations carry on the farming tradition.
Jay Hill is bringing a fresh sense of entrepreneurship to his traditional farming practice and using social media to show the world all the hard work—and fun—that are part of farming life.
And Abbey Carver, an agronomist and recent college grad, is part of the next generation of tech-enabled growers. She mixes her knowledge of ag-tech and hard science with a passion for the land to help keep the world sustainably fed.
Scroll to see their stories
Meet Bill Horan
The Hardy Statesman
The Hardy Statesman
Meet Bill Horan, a hardy, yet elegant statesman of the Iowa cornfields who has worked the land for most of his life. Horan lives and helps runs a thriving business on his family’s farm; he still has the first tractor his father ever bought, and walks past his childhood bedroom every day. But at 70, he’s every bit the 21st century farmer, in his comfort zone discussing GPS, soil data and ag-tech. He also speaks with humble pride about helping to feed our growing world. “You might need a doctor or a dentist once a year,” he said. “But you need a farmer three times a day."
Q&A with Bill Q&A with Bill
Q: You’ve been farming for years and have accumulated so much knowledge along the way. What have you seen as some of the big changes and developments in farming and ag-tech?
A: Two things: number one is the use of GPS technology to apply fertility and crop protection products—site-specifically. It has dramatically increased the efficiency of American farmers, and dramatically improved our impact on the environment. Number two, the introduction of genetically modified seed has drastically reduced the amount of crop protection products that farmers across the United States are using.
Meet Jay Hill
The New Breed
The new breed
This 32-year-old native of southern New Mexico has transformed 10 acres he and his father farmed when he was a teen into a business that includes multiple farming ventures and hundreds of employees. He’s also an accomplished storyteller who seems to never be short on charming memories of growing up in the fields. But these days, he’s also an earnest entrepreneur of the digital age, running large enterprises and mixing in plenty of social media—complete with photos of magic hour farm sunsets, portraits of his baby girl and close-ups of his chocolate labs. He thinks this type of visibility can help show more people the integrity he brings to helping to keep the world fed. “The beautiful thing about social media is people just [get] to ask questions and we’re going to give you an honest answer,” he said. “Every single day we go to work, we have you in mind.”
Q&A with Jay Q&A with Jay
Q: How is sustainability a part of your farming work?
A: Sustainability is, without a doubt, critical to me, not only being successful, but having longevity in the agriculture world. It’s being able to produce healthy and nutritious crops utilizing minimal manmade and natural resources. We want to make sure that with fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, we’re only using the right amount. We don’t want to mass apply. We want to make sure we’re precise in what we do.
Meet Abbey Carver
The Next Generation
The next generation
As a youngster, Abbey Carver couldn’t stay out of the dirt. The lifelong lover of the outdoors never minded having her hands in the earth. “I’ve always been more comfortable outside,” she said. “I get antsy watching a movie. I can’t sit for that long.” Now, as an agronomist, she’s turned her passion for growing into a job using apps, smartphones and plant science to make sure crop output is as good as it can be. “I’m sort of a soil doctor investigator,” she said. After an internship at an organic farm and work as a student farm manager during college, the recent graduate is helping others have stable access to food. “I honestly feel like a super hero,” she said. “There’s so many great parts to helping feed the world.”
Q&A with Abbey Q&A with Abbey
Q: What type of equipment do you use in your work, and how do you use it?
A: I use my smartphone every day. If I'm out in the field and I see an insect, I need to look it up ASAP. I have books with me all the time, but it's so much faster just to look it up. If I'm needing to go through records on past applications on the fields, I have it right at my fingertips on the app we use for documentations on every implement or chemical that touches each field… I have so much respect for past-generation farmers, because they had to kind of go about it the hard way. We're so lucky [now] to have the technology at hand.