People’s recognition of agriculture has been changing, and this is a global phenomenon beyond Korea as agriculture is drawing fresh attention as a future industry. The government’s support of agriculture is increasingly shifting from subsidies meant for farmers’ welfare towards the purpose of investment in the future and job creation. In his congratulatory message for the “Farming Venture and Returning to Farm Expo,” hosted by The Dong-A Ilbo and its affiliate Channel A TV on Friday, President Moon Jae-in said, “More than 490,000 people returned to farms and rural areas last year, and half of them were young people in their 20s and 30s.” He added, “We now live in an era when youth are seeking to move to rural areas to explore their life.”
Since the start of industrialization, people have constantly moved from rural areas to cities to supply industrial manpower, but more people are now leaving cities to move to rural villages, which is truly a surprising change. Many of returnees are the baby boomer generation of the 50s and 60s who are moving to rural areas to start the second part of their lives, but young farmers have moved to rural areas by having agriculture as the base for their business ventures.
A growing number of young people who have moved to farming ventures and rural areas are making successes. A farmer has earned 7 billion won (approx. 5.78 million U.S. dollars) in cumulative sale from baby food made of local produce in Mount Jiri, while other farmer has earned 100 million won (approx. 82,700 dollars) in sales per year by selling cicada larva. By adopting IoT, some smart farms have successfully prevented damage caused by harmful insects, while certain ranches have increased milk production by more than 30 percent. A rice-planting tractor equipped with a self-driving system has completed pilot operation and is ready to be commercialized.
Now Korean agriculture is fast evolving towards second-generation smart farms that maximize crops harvest and livestock production based on artificial intelligence and big data technology. “Agriculture incorporating ICT is a main pillar of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. which includes the biotech industry,” Prime Minister Lee Nak-yeon said in the expo on Friday. “Young people who have opened ventures in the agro sector and are earning six-digit annual income are not uncommon now.”
The expo, which continues through Monday, has brought together 89 cities and counties nationwide, and is providing programs to support people returning to farms, while exhibiting diverse items that have enabled new farmers to succeed in agricultural ventures. This event demonstrates how agriculture can transform and how it is shifting. It is hoped that many more young people who are armed with state-of-the art technologies and passion and those in their 50s and 60s who boast rich experience will achieve success in the agriculture sector.