Part 1: Is Pokémon Go a Step Away from Virtual Animal Management?

Part 1 of our series investigating youth in agriculture and how to attract more people into the industry.

The frequency of Google searches for specific keywords is often used as a barometer on rising issues or new internet fads. Take for example Pokémon Go. It made news across the World as thousands of people roamed the streets looking for Pokémon on their phones. There was even a stampede in Taiwan. Naturally, Google provides a very clear indication of its rise in popularity and subsequent decay (approximating an inverse relationship):

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It’s not hard to work out that the augmented reality, rejigged classic was released in selected countries on July 12 2016.

Apply this analysis to many internet fads, real life events, important discoveries, and it becomes clear that what we search on the most popular search site is very closely linked to our interests and concerns.

What becomes troubling then are the implications of the graph below. Comparing the relative search frequency of farming and food shows an ever increasing search frequency for ‘food’. On the other hand, the search for ‘farming’ or ‘farm’ has been declining since a peak in November 2014.

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Perhaps, the graphs could be read that as people become increasingly concerned about the food they consume, there is fading concern and interest for the way it is produced. Aside from the trend, it is intriguing that the relative search frequency for ‘food’ is more than 20 times greater than ‘farming’ even when comparing peaks.

The distance between food consumption and food production is continuing to grow. There are more signs of this occurring, as Australia moves towards a 90% level of urbanisation and agricultural science graduates remain low (although showing positive upticks in popularity).

Whatever may be the case, it paints an interesting scenario that only serves to redouble the efforts of agricultural communicators (such as ourselves, Thank a Farmer), those reconnecting consumers and kids with agriculture (George the Farmer), and other groups encouraging more young people into farming (Cultivate Farms) to name a few. There must be a concerted effort to turn the trend around, beginning locally before moving to national and international scale.

While the numbers on Google may be concerning, the calls to encourage youth into agriculture are coming from a range of areas. In a submission to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Foreign Policy White Paper, the Crawford Fund noted that:

“we need to encourage younger people and early career researchers into modern agriculture with opportunities in its digital and international dimensions”

Crawford Fund

Within the industry, the Australian Farm Institute, the National Farmers’ Federation and the Agriculture Institute Australia (to name a few peak bodies) are all calling for similar goals in expanding the number of young people in agriculture.

After all, if an augmented reality game about chasing fictional animals in the real world can receive 500 million downloads in 10 months, imagine the possibilities in using virtual reality to conduct animal management tasks remotely, or even drones to target weeds and disease. Imagine the rewards if you really did catch ’em all in your paddock.

Part 1 of our series investigating youth in agriculture and how to attract more people into the industry.

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