Meet the Young Millennial Farmer

Young Farmers Use Technology and Data in Farming

What are young farmers doing to set their futures on the farm in motion?

Gustavo Boscoli, the 28 year old co-principal of Bragança Agronegócios, a crop and livestock operation in Mato Grosso, Brazil, can tell you. Better yet, follow him @gustavo_boscoli on Instagram and he can show you.

First thing you’ll notice is his farm technology. Monster machines—from his extra-large pickup to fleets of massive cultivators, tractors, harvesters, and haulers—dominate Boscoli’s feed. Which makes sense, because the next thing you’ll notice is that his fields of soybeans, corn, rice, and sorghum seemingly cover the planet.

Scores of photos don’t tell the whole story, however. The fields of Bragança Agronegócios may be as gold and the skies as blue as they were when Boscoli’s father and grandfather were leading the operation, but this Boscoli is a new breed of young farmer. He and the rest of the social-first generation are transforming not only food production but our relationship to it.

 

A focus on ROI

In taking over the family farm from his father, who died in 2018, Boscoli differs from Gen Z, who are more likely to leave the family farm than run it. Many young Brazilians who grew up farming have moved to metropolitan areas or the US and Europe because they want to experience a different lifestyle. Those who do come back to the farm often return with a PhD or an MBA because they feel they need more business knowledge to succeed.

Boscoli doesn’t have a degree in agronomy and doesn’t plan on pursuing an MBA. But his outlook is that of a businessman. “Every day I wake up and think, how do I produce more? How can I produce more income, more return on investment? It’s not just financial, this pressure: how will I feed the world?”

Gen Z farmers are different kinds of customers. Rather than look to their fathers’ brands for solutions, they’re looking to technology, and data, to help them get back their investments and generate a profit.

Young_Farmers Row of Tractors
Young_Farmers Row of Tractors

What are young farmers doing to set their futures on the farm in motion?

Gustavo Boscoli, the 28 year old co-principal of Bragança Agronegócios, a crop and livestock operation in Mato Grosso, Brazil, can tell you. Better yet, follow him @gustavo_boscoli on Instagram and he can show you.

First thing you’ll notice is his farm technology. Monster machines—from his extra-large pickup to fleets of massive cultivators, tractors, harvesters, and haulers—dominate Boscoli’s feed. Which makes sense, because the next thing you’ll notice is that his fields of soybeans, corn, rice, and sorghum seemingly cover the planet.

Scores of photos don’t tell the whole story, however. The fields of Bragança Agronegócios may be as gold and the skies as blue as they were when Boscoli’s father and grandfather were leading the operation, but this Boscoli is a new breed of young farmer. He and the rest of the social-first generation are transforming not only food production but our relationship to it.

 

A focus on ROI

In taking over the family farm from his father, who died in 2018, Boscoli differs from Gen Z, who are more likely to leave the family farm than run it. Many young Brazilians who grew up farming have moved to metropolitan areas or the US and Europe because they want to experience a different lifestyle. Those who do come back to the farm often return with a PhD or an MBA because they feel they need more business knowledge to succeed.

Boscoli doesn’t have a degree in agronomy and doesn’t plan on pursuing an MBA. But his outlook is that of a businessman. “Every day I wake up and think, how do I produce more? How can I produce more income, more return on investment? It’s not just financial, this pressure: how will I feed the world?”

Gen Z farmers are different kinds of customers. Rather than look to their fathers’ brands for solutions, they’re looking to technology, and data, to help them get back their investments and generate a profit.

Greater reliance on tech

Given the extent of Boscoli’s investments, a fixation on returns is understandable. His investments make for daunting reading:

  • autonomous irrigators
  • GPS-guided harvesters
  • remote-controlled UAVs
  • genetically improved seed
  • biologicals that enhance seed viability and plant productivity
  • telemetry platforms that integrate field and weather data to inform planting, spraying, and harvesting decisions, and
  • enterprise resource planning software that integrates accounting, procurement, and project management with data on everything from crop growth to commodity price swings.

If that sounds expensive, it is. But given the size of Bragança Agronegócios, 13,000 hectares, (50 square miles or 32,000 acres), and the volatility of commodity prices, Boscoli simply cannot afford to go without.

“With access to all this information, I see what’s happening daily in the field—where the machines are and what they are doing—and also in the markets,” he explains. “The soy market is crazy. You’ve got to watch for updates daily. If you don’t have real-time market data, it’s easy to do a bad deal.”

 

Plowing data, not soil

Gen Z’s investment in technology is likely to deepen for two reasons. First, the farmers’ operations are likely to get bigger, in keeping with decades of consolidation worldwide, and bigger farms are a lot more complex to manage. Principals can no longer circle their operations in two hours. Day to day tasks demand rafts of fulltime employees, not just family members.

Second, exponential leaps in data-capture spur ever greater reliance on digital tools that can amass, analyze, and model data to inform decision-making. A generation ago, digital yield maps transformed farming by capturing and processing farm-level data. Today, farmers are looking at layers of field-level data. Tomorrow? They’ll be capturing plant-level data.

That’s both a blessing and a curse for Gen Z farmers. They will likely rely less on intuition and more on decision-making tools and software. These tools will enable them check their instinct against the algorithm’s assessment of what will happen, and make a decision without emotional bias. Yet, because the farm is ever larger, there’s an enormous amount of information to manage.

 

Changing the narrative

Young_Farmers handful of seeds
Young_Farmers handful of seeds

If that sounds expensive, it is. But given the size of Bragança Agronegócios, 13,000 hectares, (50 square miles or 32,000 acres), and the volatility of commodity prices, Boscoli simply cannot afford to go without.

“With access to all this information, I see what’s happening daily in the field—where the machines are and what they are doing—and also in the markets,” he explains. “The soy market is crazy. You’ve got to watch for updates daily. If you don’t have real-time market data, it’s easy to do a bad deal.”

 

Plowing data, not soil

Gen Z’s investment in technology is likely to deepen for two reasons. First, the farmers’ operations are likely to get bigger, in keeping with decades of consolidation worldwide, and bigger farms are a lot more complex to manage. Principals can no longer circle their operations in two hours. Day to day tasks demand rafts of fulltime employees, not just family members.

Second, exponential leaps in data-capture spur ever greater reliance on digital tools that can amass, analyze, and model data to inform decision-making. A generation ago, digital yield maps transformed farming by capturing and processing farm-level data. Today, farmers are looking at layers of field-level data. Tomorrow? They’ll be capturing plant-level data.

That’s both a blessing and a curse for Gen Z farmers. They will likely rely less on intuition and more on decision-making tools and software. These tools will enable them check their instinct against the algorithm’s assessment of what will happen, and make a decision without emotional bias. Yet, because the farm is ever larger, there’s an enormous amount of information to manage.

 

Changing the narrative

Their use of social media, however, is what utterly distinguishes Generations Y and Z from their Boomer forebearers. By sharing every aspect of farm life over YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram, they are rekindling the interest of consumers in where food comes from and how it is produced. Video parodies posted on YouTube by the Peterson Brothers, a trio of Kansas farmers consisting of Greg, 30, Nathan, 28, and Kendal, 25, garner millions of views. Boscoli’s personal Instagram feed of bean fields and monster trucks commands 37,500 followers, and Bragança Agronegócios commands another 11,800.

And these young farmers are using that following not merely to entertain, but also to educate. Cesinha Farias and Sailinha Farias, the twenty-something siblings behind @Jovensdoagro, young people from the farm, on Instagram, are a good example. Accompanying a snap of Cesinha crouching beneath a thicket of sugarcane is a post about the environmental benefits of ethanol.

Nothing could be more important to the future of agriculture than the positive influence these young farmers wield. With pictures and personal stories about farming and farm life, they’re chipping away at misconceptions and building trust with consumers. Trust based on values they share about sustainable production and a venture that spans generations. Post by post, they’re closing the relationship gap with consumers. In the not-too-distant future, they’ll have made us all followers.

Young_Farmers Father holding young son on tractor
Young_Farmers Father holding young son on tractor

Their use of social media, however, is what utterly distinguishes Generations Y and Z from their Boomer forebearers. By sharing every aspect of farm life over YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram, they are rekindling the interest of consumers in where food comes from and how it is produced. Video parodies posted on YouTube by the Peterson Brothers, a trio of Kansas farmers consisting of Greg, 30, Nathan, 28, and Kendal, 25, garner millions of views. Boscoli’s personal Instagram feed of bean fields and monster trucks commands 37,500 followers, and Bragança Agronegócios commands another 11,800.

And these young farmers are using that following not merely to entertain, but also to educate. Cesinha Farias and Sailinha Farias, the twenty-something siblings behind @Jovensdoagro, young people from the farm, on Instagram, are a good example. Accompanying a snap of Cesinha crouching beneath a thicket of sugarcane is a post about the environmental benefits of ethanol.

Nothing could be more important to the future of agriculture than the positive influence these young farmers wield. With pictures and personal stories about farming and farm life, they’re chipping away at misconceptions and building trust with consumers. Trust based on values they share about sustainable production and a venture that spans generations. Post by post, they’re closing the relationship gap with consumers. In the not-too-distant future, they’ll have made us all followers.