Earlier this year and to coincide with the Moorepark Open Day, VistaMilk held a poster competition for primary schools on the topic of ‘The Farm of the Future’. Eight schools took part and we were delighted to receive over 150 exceptional posters from pupils of varying ages from junior infants all the way up to 6th class.
While the posters were all brilliant, and all very different, there were some common themes throughout that might possibly point the way to what the farm of the future will look like, how it will operate and who will be running it!
Many of the posters featured the six colours of the Pride Flag, and while June was Pride month and students were clearly influenced by what they learned in school or online, the inclusion of the colours points to an even more inclusive agricultural sector where farming families are increasingly diverse.
Slightly unusually, perhaps, many of the posters featured American-style red barns and very few depicted the typical Irish sheds.
As most of the schools that participated in the poster competition are rural schools and their students would be likely see Irish-style sheds on a regular basis, this has to be the influence of books, TV and video games. Whether it will lead the Americanisation of our sheds in the future remains, of course, to be seen.
Reflecting the competition theme there were plenty of entries featuring futuristic machinery as well as animals in space suits and farming on the moon! Some of the machinery included hovercraft tractors and drones being used to spray fields or deliver water to crops.
Some of these things, of course, are science fiction but – thanks to the work being done under the VistaMilk umbrella – quite close to being science fact!
The posters, from both male and female students, showed a higher proportion of female (or gender-neutral robotic) farmers compared to male farmers. This is extremely positive, demonstrating a recognition that Ireland is moving closer to breaking the stereotype of farming being a male-dominated career.
This is an important change because a recent study by Beecher et al., 2022 found that only 40% of students in all girls schools thought that there were equal opportunities (men/women) in agriculture. This figure dropped to 17% when students from city schools were asked. It’s good to know primary school children see it differently.
In the older age groups, renewable energy emerged as a recurring theme with windmills featuring in many of the posters, as well as irrigation systems.
Conveyor belts and streamlined processes to produce high yielding produce were also prevalent in some of the posters from older children, which shows an awareness of the food production deficit that will come with an increasing global population.
Some less common themes included vertical farming, biogas production and methane measuring equipment such as the GreenFeed technology used in Moorepark, again showing an awareness of how our planet is changing and what agriculture needs to do to become more environmentally sustainable.
Finally, it was interesting to note that most of the posters depicted the farm with sunshine as opposed to rain and there was an overall positive outlook in the majority of the posters. This, of course, demonstrates the irrepressible optimism of the Irish in the face of the certain knowledge that there will be at least four seasons in any given day!
The VistaMilk poster competition was a huge success. It is clear students have a great awareness of sustainable practices in agriculture, the importance of breaking traditional stereotypes and the impact that modern technology will have on the future of agriculture – and that is genuinely great to see.
For further information:
Jeremy Probert | 4TC | firstname.lastname@example.org | (+353) (0)89-700-0792
Craig McKechnie | 4TC | email@example.com | (+353) (0)87-621-8839
Notes to Editors:
VistaMilk SFI Research Centre
Established in 2018, the VistaMilk SFI Research Centre identifies challenges and solves problems for the Irish dairy sector in four specific areas – soil, pasture, cow, and food. VistaMilk is a unique collaboration between Agri-Food and information communications technology (ICT) research institutes and leading Irish/multinational food and ICT companies. It is funded by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) and the Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine (DAFM).
Through strategic collaboration and co-ordination, VistaMilk’s research programme provides an opportunity to acquire, analyse and act upon data to generate a range of recommendations and practical solutions to real and current issues.
VistaMilk’s access to expertise and resources makes it an authoritative voice on a range of topics facing the Irish dairy industry, including sustainability, emissions reduction, and carbon sequestration.
VistaMilk’s projects will enable Irish dairy farmers to develop the sustainable practices that will protect the 18,000 family farms, the 60,000 jobs and the more than €6bn annual economic contribution that dairy supports in this country. It will also provide consumers with the reassurance of knowing that the dairy products they buy continue to be both farmed and processed locally.