Education and agriculture: how STEM can meet entrepreneurship on the field?
Food and nutrition are key aspects for healthy living and good quality of life. The paradox hits us when in 2020 approximately 2 billion people suffer from food insecurity, 820 million people are undernourished, and still overweight rates are growing in almost all regions of the world. Global numbers are reaching not only 2 billion overweight adults but also 40 million children under the age of five (UN.org, 2019).
Unfortunately, the food industry is also negatively affecting our environment – climate change, waste, deforestation, pollutants and soil degradation. The latest report of United Nations (2019) states: “Billions of hectares of land have already been degraded, and an additional 12 million hectares of agricultural land are likely to become unusable for food production every year.” Besides food still sometimes travels thousands of kilometres to reach its final customer.
OECD projects that by the year 2030 the population number will increase from 7,8 billion to 8,5 billion people (OECD, 2020). That number is supposed to increase to 9.7 billion by 2050 (UN. DESA, 2019). Now there is 10,6 % farmers under the age of 40. Further dropping is going to be critical. The agriculture sector is a big employer in the European Union, yet there is only 4,2 % of its labour securing food. And still, the number has been dropping more over the years with further disappearance of farms. (Eurostat, 2018).
The agriculture industry and responsibility
Agriculture industry holds responsibility in multiple sectors. On the one hand, economic growth encouraged by the provision of food has a real social impact, and on the other, maintaining our environment has become one of the top priorities of multiple plans of sustainability. United Nations report (2019) states it is necessary to change existing infrastructure, policies, regulations, norms, and preferences to transition towards food and nutrition systems that foster universal good health and eliminate malnutrition while minimizing environmental impact (UN.org, 2019). OECD representatives add that 3 crucial areas (feeding a growing population, providing a livelihood for farmers, and protecting the environment) needs to be tacked together otherwise initiatives in one domain can have unintended consequences in another (Brooks, Deconinck and Giner, 2019). National and multinational unions are aware of the importance of the prosperous agriculture devoting millions of euros every year in grants for its support
Education, learning, sharing and caring for the industry is essential here. International Association of Students in Agricultural and Related Sciences (IAAS) undertakes preparation of the future generation on the risks that might occur (hopefully won’t). European Council of the Young Farmers (CEJA), AgriCord and other organizations have united to promote the field of agriculture, provoke discussion with decision-making bodies and overall to spread a good portrayal of the sector.
CEJA (WORDPRESS, 2019) emphasize the responsibility of policy makers: “As young farmers, we realize that embracing this continuous change is a big part of our profession. However, in combination with the challenges we are already facing such as a structural shortage of income and inadequate access to land, we cannot face this evolution alone. Therefore, CEJA asks for strongly funded transitional measures, such as education, trainings and investment support, that will allow farmers to adapt their production methods to new climatic conditions.”
Green Steam project
“Green STEAM Incubator” is seeking to investigate the common boarders of STEAM and entrepreneurship, by identifying ways in which STEM-oriented knowledge can be utilised along the path of enhancing agriculture, environmental engineering and social innovation, under the context of Youth-oriented activities. Simultaneously, the project aspires to set a fertile ground for the promotion of a culture of social enterprises, agro-businesses and start-ups, capable of utilising recent technological innovations. Such multifaceted target will be achieved through a sequence of methodologies:
- By establishing collaborative linkages between youth organisations, stakeholders and agribusinesses, with the ultimate goal of encouraging activities related to the permaculture and organic farming sector, thus fostering a cross-sectoral and collaborative scientific learning experience for young people (18-35);
- by creating fun methods such as scavenger hunts, quests and a board game as part of STEAM environmental activities that combine permaculture/organic farming and environmental education, with an educational focus on habitat conservation and biodiversity; in other words, how to conserve, protect and ultimately restore the areas in which we live, thus encouraging positive behavioural change among young people, while simultaneously raising awareness of huge ecosystem problems, such as water shortage, water and air pollution, inadequate waste disposal, land and soil degradation;
- by designing and delivering Modules for “Microcontrollers” and “3D Modelling” Youth Laboratories (Incubators) that will enable participants to acquire knowledge on how to design and promote holistic, high-tech solutions for sustainable communities, that stem from STEAM Such Modules will guide young participants on how to employ “Design Thinking Models” in order to carry out potential environmental projects that bring into life innovative eco-friendly products and services;
- by creating and promoting media campaigns and digitized exhibitions which demonstrate eco-friendly products and services, designed and constructed under the context of “Green STEAMIncubator” laboratories.