In these inherently fluid, digital times, we are seeing more extensive innovation in agriculture—one of humanity’s most ancient of physical activities—than ever before.
In Italy, agriculture has been profoundly altered and rejuvenated. Over the last five years, this evolution has resulted in growth in employment, in exports and in product value added. According to a Coldiretti/Ixe’ study, over the last year there has been a 12% increase in the number of people under 35 who have chosen to work in agriculture. Of these 20,000 people, half have university degrees and 57% have brought some sort of innovation to the field, but most importantly their level of job satisfaction is high. Indeed, in a nation with such a wealth of local and regional produce and other specialty foods, agriculture remains an invaluable resource that can be taken full advantage of with the help of technology.
Agriculture of today is quite a bit different from typical industrial agriculture or the traditional farming of the past. It is about well-educated young people who are connected online and are in touch with urban life and so are aware of the opportunities for innovation made possible through technology and alternative resources. It is the dawn of a new era in responsible agriculture, one which begins with a rediscovery of ancient traditions and then uses the best technologies and scientific advancements for produce that is as high in quality as it is sustainable. The electrification of agricultural processes, the use of drones and electric vehicles, and other process innovations are just a few of the techniques that, together with organic farming, energy savings, and the reduced use of chemicals, are the pillars of sustainable growth.
One example of the many innovative projects in virtuous farming comes from Etruria Royal Fruit in Monterotondo Marittimo, in the province of Grosseto, near the defunct Montalto di Castro power station. It is here that they will begin growing tomatoes in greenhouses heated by way of geothermal energy through a collaboration with Enel Green Power—which will provide the geothermal energy— and Georto Green Tech.
It all began with a call for proposals by the City of Monterotondo Marittimo to come up with a new way to take advantage of the area’s primary resource, that of geothermal energy. Etruria Royal Fruit, the agricultural company awarded the contract, designed a 1.2-hectare greenhouse, construction of which began in September and is expected to be completed in March 2017 for a total investment of €1 million, which will result in the creation of nine new jobs. Geothermal energy applied to agriculture, and to the heating of greenhouses in particular, will result in a reduction of fungal infections and up to an 80% reduction in fuel costs, thereby ensuring savings in overall operating costs.