New Copa and Cogeca Task Force debated in Brussels this week the importance of technology in modern farming – big data and precision farming – to improve farmers returns.
“Innovation contributes to a competitive, efficient EU agriculture sector, helping farmers to cut production costs and produce more with less. Precision farming, robots and drones are becoming the words of the day, to ensure a successful agriculture industry tomorrow,” said Copa-Cogeca secretary-general Pekka Pesonen said at the meeting.
“They are the reality right now for a limited number of farmers but we need to better understand this new technology, make it more accessible to farmers and cooperatives, share knowledge and step up research so that we can use them to meet the upcoming challenge of feeding a growing population with limited resources. We need to be in the driving seat of this debate.
“Precision farming is all about recognising, understanding and exploiting information that quantifies variations in soil and crops and in livestock production. Information collected on-farms can be combined with historical and real-time data on weather predictions, soil conditions, crop features and many other data sets and then used by companies on a commercial scale to help farmers improve their productivity.
“Robots are increasingly being used in dairy farms and feeding cattle. Soon they may arrive to vineyards and horticulture. Drones show huge potential in agriculture. But we need to step up training so that farmers have the right skills to use this technology,” he explained.
“New regulatory initiatives can also bring serious challenges. For example, in order to comply with regulations and ambitious environmental targets, machines have to have structural changes that can impact the way farms are designed, in particular with very specialized equipment.
“For instance, narrow tractors or machinery used in short periods of time. And it’s important to make sure that all the necessary technical equipment is available in the future, responding to specific farming needs,” he added.
“All these technological developments also raise questions about ownership and privacy of data, compatibility of systems, labour rules, training, and so on. Another major challenge for the farming community is to assure that developments in this field provide the technological solutions that farmers need and are not be driven by other interests. It is vital that research and innovation efforts in this field bring added value to farmers and cooperatives,” he concluded.