Digital applied sciences may help farming sort out the ‘double crucial’ of greening the sector whereas making certain meals safety, in keeping with a European Fee official. However excessive funding prices and poor connectivity in rural areas may stand in the best way.
Precision farming, wherein digital applied sciences are leveraged to make agricultural practices extra correct, has drawn growing consideration in recent times as a technique to optimise the usage of agricultural inputs resembling pesticides, fertilisers, or water.
Based on Gaëlle Marion, head of the environmental sustainability unit within the Fee’s agriculture service (DG AGRI), such strategies may be key to creating farming extra local weather and environmentally pleasant whereas nonetheless conserving manufacturing at present ranges.
“The agricultural sector is confronted with a double problem,” she confused throughout a latest EURACTIV occasion.
For Marion, this consists of, firstly, the “want for an ecological transition making certain the safety of pure assets and preventing local weather change”, and secondly the necessity for continued meals manufacturing.
“Precision farming comes simply on the centre of this double problem,” she confused,
Based on the European Fee, precision farming may help enhance crop yields and animal efficiency, scale back prices, and optimise the usage of inputs.
For instance, digital applied sciences can predict illnesses and thus give a prognosis on exactly when it’s needed to make use of sure pesticides, conservative EU lawmaker Franc Bogovič, who can also be an apple farmer, defined through the occasion.
This manner, fewer pesticides are wanted general, he added. Related methods can be utilized on the subject of irrigation, Bogovič defined, decreasing the quantity of water wanted and making irrigation extra environment friendly.
However regardless of such advantages, the broader rollout of precision agriculture practices nonetheless faces essential hurdles. Notably, utilizing sensible applied sciences first requires a high-quality web connection.
Based on a 2022 report by the fibre trade affiliation FFTH Council Europe, solely 30% of rural inhabitants had entry to full-fibre connectivity by September 2021, in comparison with nearly half throughout all households.
Despite the fact that this digital divide is closing, connectivity stays “a basic concern”, Marion confused, including the Fee hopes to sort out this via the Connecting Europe Facility, an EU funding programme aimed, amongst different issues, at making a bloc-wide digital and telecommunication infrastructure.
Aside from enhancing web connection, the excessive funding prices wanted to amass many precision farming options is usually a problem for small farms, Bogovič confused. “I believe it is vitally essential that we care for them,” he stated, including cooperatives may provide options by enabling the shared buy and use of digital applied sciences.
Marion additionally acknowledged that assist is required for small farms to have entry to precision agriculture, however stated the EU is already doing a lot to this finish.
“The Frequent Agricultural Coverage (CAP) helps and can proceed to assist not simply investments, but in addition shifts in practices,” together with by supporting cooperation initiatives between researchers, advisors and farmers, but in addition coaching and advisory companies typically, she added.
Information sharing alternatives
In the meantime, Marion additionally identified that digitalising agriculture “may be far more than a person step on the farm degree – it’s also about cooperation alongside the meals chain”.
Digital functions can doubtlessly enable farmers to share knowledge with one another and with companions alongside the worth chain, or routinely and instantly feed administrative knowledge via to the competent authorities – one thing that might assist minimise pink tape, Bogovič identified.
To make such farm-level knowledge sharing doable throughout Europe, the Fee has dedicated to increase a typical agriculture knowledge area as a part of the European Information Technique it introduced in early 2020.
However analysis has proven that many farmers have reservations about disclosing knowledge.
In a research performed amongst German farmers by the digital trade affiliation Bitkom, only one% of respondents stated they had been prepared to share knowledge and not using a precondition, 13% stated they weren’t prepared to share in any respect, and the rest stated it will rely upon whether or not this may carry them further advantages.
Many are frightened that disclosing on-farm knowledge may end in unfavorable results, for instance, if the information collected helps regulators introduce further or stricter guidelines in keeping with Aline Blankertz, the co-chair of SINE Basis, an NGO selling knowledge collaboration.
“Should you speak to farmers, they ask: What do I get out of this?” she instructed EURACTIV earlier this 12 months.
[Edited by Nathalie Weatherald]