As part of its Working Group on ‘Smart Agriculture, CEJA – the European Council of Young Farmers – visited AGCO’s Breganze plant in Italy which makes Massey Ferguson combines. In this month’s regular column, CEJA President, Alan Jagoe reports on the meeting.
MF: What was the purpose of your visit to the combine harvester factory in Breganze?
AJ: A group of CEJA representatives including the Presidency visited the plant in early November 2016 to experience first-hand the forefront of innovation taking place at Massey Ferguson’s facilities. We were also there to hear the Company’s views on innovation in the agriculture sector and what the future holds for European young farmers and smart agriculture.
MF: Why is innovation such a hot topic in the agriculture sector?
AJ: Due to the steady rise in world population, there is now a continually increasing global demand for food. This has also meant that food security has emerged as a significant issue across the globe. With the signing and now ratification process of the Paris Agreement, sustainability will remain as the key outcome of policies across sectors for years to come. As agriculture is intrinsically linked to the environment, agricultural policies, especially European agricultural policies, will progressively become more oriented towards the advocacy and implementation of sustainable industry practices, with sustainability being the foundation of all future strategies. Demand for food, food security and sustainability will all contribute as significant factors in the future of agriculture. As a consequence, there is, and will continue to be, a demand for farmers to produce more with less, that is to say to produce products with increasing efficiency, using less resources, and having less environmental impact. While agriculture demands the use of resources, technology but specifically innovation and smart agriculture, holds the key to farmers being able optimise their operations and achieve EU and international sustainable policy goals.
MF: Campbell Scott, Massey Ferguson Director Marketing Services and PR, spoke to CEJA participants during a round table discussion on smart agriculture. What did he have to say?
AJ: Yes, what he had to say was very interesting. He emphasised that when talking about innovation in agriculture, farmers do not look for specific technology, they instead look for solutions. This search for solutions, he explained, is connected to knowledge. Farmers and Massey Ferguson alike need knowledge and understanding on what drives innovation in order to find appropriate solutions for farmers’ technological needs. These main drivers of innovation comprise a plethora of social, technological, economic and political aspects. He stated that the role of technology, for example precision farming, is to provide these innovations which are driven by one or a combination of these aforementioned aspects. These innovations will then be able to deliver the solutions that are required. Campbell further highlighted that the smart farmers of tomorrow will not be those who use the latest technology as solutions on their farms, but they will be those who use the appropriate technology for their business. It should be farmers themselves who decide which technology is most appropriate to deliver the solutions they are looking for.
MF: What else did you learn from your visit?
AJ: That farmers, and especially young farmers, need to be empowered - first to identify the solutions they require for their business, and secondly to understand the relevant innovation in technology that can best cater for their needs. Farmers often have a perceived complexity about smart agriculture and new innovations in technology that stifles both interest in and adoption of these products and practices. This needs to be overcome! Young farmers are the most innovative in the agriculture sector. However, their awareness of the potential benefits of the take-up of appropriate innovation needs to be improved. While the immediate cost of smart agriculture is often high, the benefits are immeasurable.
MF: Do the benefits of innovation need to be better communicated?
AJ: Definitely. Young farmers have limited access to credit and need to fully utilise the technology available. This notion additionally extends to business models that go beyond increasing productivity through technological innovations, such as environmental benefits. As well as optimising production in their farming business, awareness needs to be raised amongst young farmers that innovation can lead to simultaneous benefits, both for their business and related external factors such as the such as soil health and biodiversity. Support for and dissemination of this knowledge to young farmers throughout Europe must be implemented so that young farmers are able to maintain their position at the forefront of sustainable agriculture.
MF: How can smart agriculture help?
AJ: Young farmers are the future of food, and innovation and smart agriculture can greatly facilitate this role. To achieve global objectives on sustainability and food security, young farmers must be equipped with appropriate knowledge and smart agricultural tools. Now more than ever, digital integration in farming practices provides an important stepping stone to a thriving EU agriculture sector now and into the future. For example, widespread access to rural broadband will allow digital access to markets which will, in turn, allow the consumer to be presented with traceability data which will facilitate transparency throughout the food supply chain. Significantly however, digital integration will also reinforce the link between farming and other sectors, ensuring that agriculture continues to take account of broader happenings in rural development, environmental protection and sustainability, and other related sectors.
If you would like to get in touch with Alan Jagoe, email firstname.lastname@example.org
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