Agricultural Futures: Science Fiction Farmers

Science Fiction movies are better known for space ships and laser pistols…

But they’ve also made some astute observations about the future of agriculture.

It might be a while until we have to worry about the events depicted in dystopian classics like Soylent Green, but with the constant exponential development of technology, more wild concepts from Sci-Fi movies are worming their way into our reality, suggesting that these distant futures might not be as remote as we think they are.

From George Lucas’ 1977 seminal picture to more recent super-hero releases, the notion of how we grow our products is constantly being challenged both on and off-screen.

Star Wars|1977

Luke Skywalker lives a peaceful, if somewhat dull, existence on his home planet of Tatooine in the opening scenes of Lucas’ Star Wars. He’s a small-town farm boy, whose adoptive parents own a ‘moisture farm’, a business that uses advanced machinery to extract water from the arid desert environment. Using second-hand droids (some of which don’t quite cut the mustard) and odd looking installations, the Lars’ existence felt like a remote one, reliant on technology.

Is It Happening Now? In Ethiopia, moisture farms are no longer a thing of science-fiction. Costing as little as £500, these towers, made of a polypropylene mesh and natural materials, gather condensation which then drips down into a collector. Hardly high tech, but still a clean source of water that wouldn’t have been possible a few decades ago.


A Scanner, Darkly|2006

Philip K. Dick’s seedy 1977 novel of rehabilitation gone wrong and an endless war on drugs was adapted by Richard Linklater, who used rotoscope animation to depict the mind-bending reality that protagonist Bob Arctor/Agent Fred lives in. By the time Linklater released the film in 2006, the story made for a timely statement on the War On Drugs, that the USA had been engrossed in for nearly a century. By the end of the movie, Keanau Reeves’ typically spaced out agent is mindlessly spraying fields of crops, after being enlisted into the ‘New-Path’ rehabilitation scheme – an organisation that is paradoxically producing the drugs its clients have got hooked to.

Is It Happening Now? Although there might not be any large scale production of a ‘Sudden D’ equivalent by a Rehab Company, the world of drug rehabilitation can often be a shady one. As recently as 2015, numerous allegations have been made against Community Recovery whose owner has been accused of supplying vulnerable clients with drugs in exchange for sex, money and alcohol.


Interstellar|2014

For the first 20 minutes or so you could be forgiven for thinking that Christopher Nolan’s black hole-jumping hit was set in the 20th century. Corn-fields, pickup trucks and dust storms plague protagonist Cooper’s home ranch. Although the fields look verdant enough, Earth is struggling to feed itself in this not-so-distant-future and even the aid of automated farm machinery isn’t bridging the gap. What’s more, they live in a post-truth society (the Moon landings are bluntly denied by a Science teacher) where children are being pushed to become farmers over getting a ‘proper’ education.

Is It Happening Now? Whilst moon landings conspiracy theories will always be questionable, automated farmyard technology is already in effect in the States. Self-driving tractors, made by industry giants CNH Industrial, were shown off last year – it won’t be long before they hit our own shores.


Logan|2017

Besides wholeheartedly embracing a future of drone technology (the bad guys use a fleet of them to hunt down runaway mutants), James Mangold’s second stab at the Wolverine legend also contained a worrying portent of a farming future yet to come. Logan contains a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it subplot pertaining to genetically modified foods and worryingly sentient container transports. Mangold subtly suggests a world where the will of sugar-pushing corporations is exacted by unthinking machines, a future that perhaps isn’t as far off as we think.

Is It Happening Now? The whole world loves Coca-Cola, although no one really knows what its made of…We’ve also had genetically modified vegetables for a long time now, but recently steps have been taken to introduce test-tube meat. How long will it be until there is a total disconnect between traditional farming and the food on our plates?