Although making up only 1 percent of the United States’ total GDP (USDA, 2015), agriculture has an impact that multiplies in relevance with other industries such as food, food services, textile, leather products, etc. Agriculture and its related industries provide about 11 percent of U.S. employment, in which, direct on-farm employment accounted for about 2.6 million of these jobs. Moreover, food accounts for 12.5 percent of American households’ expenditures, ranking third after housing (32.9 percent) and transportation (17 percent).
Meanwhile, a large component of farm operating costs is spent on energy for growing and harvesting crops. The production of fertiliser, specifically, has a steep cost, as it is extremely energy-intensive and requires a large amounts of natural gas. Crop drying is another fuel-intensive farm activity. Supplying water is also demands intensive energy. Pumping is mostly done with electricity, but may also be used with diesel or propane in remote locations.
The livelihood of farmers within the corporate farming industry depends almost entirely on these corporates. Fortunately, family farms are not disappearing. We as designers can empower farmers to have autonomy in the way they farm. Costly and energy-intensive procedures, corporate farming culture or exposure to weather conditions can be a challenge but also an opportunity for farmers. How might you improve the efficiency of a farm by levering renewable energy in these conditions?