Difference Between Agriculture & Industry

by Virginia Cowart; Updated September 26, 2017
Agricultural landscape

The concepts of industry and agriculture are ancient. In modern society, human work is divided into classes and subclasses of activities that define the type of work being done. Agriculture and industry are part of these classifications.


Industry is the systematic, sustained involvement of an individual or group in activities that produce defined results that can be duplicated. Archaeologists tell us that tools were being made by pre-humans as early as 2.5 million years before the current era (B.C.E.). Making tools may have been the world's first industry.


Agriculture is defined as the growing and/or harvesting of plants and animals through systematic and sustained activities performed or controlled by humans. Using this definition, agriculture started between 12,000 and 15,000 years B.C.E.


The United Nation's International Standard Industrial Classification of All Economic Activity contains 11 primary classifications of world economic activity and 74 secondary classifications. These classifications are used worldwide as a base for understanding current economic conditions and future needs.

Secondary Classification

Many secondary classifications involve agriculture. These include crop and animal production, harvesting, manufacturing of food, beverages, tobacco products, textiles, wood and products from wood (paper), rubber and plastics, fuels, transport and storage, wholesale and retail.


Using generally accepted definitions, agriculture is a subset of industry. However, it is the foundation of much of the world's economic activity. All human activity can be defined through industrial classifications, of which at least 24 are agriculture-related.

About the Author

Virginia Cowart is a medical writer formerly based in Chicago, whose articles appeared in JAMA and other medical publications. She is co-author of two books on anabolic steroids. Now living in Arkansas, she writes about whatever interests her.

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