Between December 6 and 7, 2018, EU Agricultural Outlook 2018, the fourth in the series of these Conferences, took place in Brussels. The discussions of the first day of the Conference focused on the digitization and innovation in the agricultural sector, with various references to smart farming.
More specifically, in the context of a session titled “Digitization of EU agriculture and rural areas”, the panelists referred to the fact that agriculture is currently asked to address financial, environmental and societal challenges such as the constantly increasing population, the reduced availability of necessary resources as well as the environmental impact of agriculture. In this context, the high potential and the role that technology and innovation have in the adaptation of agricultural practices for addressing these new and constantly increasing challenges, were highlighted.
The discussions presented the benefits of innovation in agriculture and focused on the ways in which they can be enabled so that they become even more efficient. They also aimed at identifying the main obstacles that hinder the further adoption of new technologies and innovation by the farmers. A characteristic example are the discussions held on how to ensure social acceptance of new technologies in agriculture.
In the context of the Conference, precision agriculture and smart farming technologies were presented as decision support tools that could bring significantly positive results in the agricultural sector, including improved productivity (through the optimization of inputs and the reduction of production costs), improved product quality, as well as reduced environmental impact (through the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and reduced runoff of nutrients). These decision support tools provide accurate and timely information to the producers, so they can take the best possible decisions regarding the management of their production and their farms in general.
The discussions also referred to various topics related to the data on which the digitization of agriculture is based, such as the way in which primary data can turn into useful information, the optimization of data management and sharing collected from various sources, data ownership (ensuring the public good of data) as well as the complementarity of technological tools for data collection and management.
On top of that, there were discussions on the ways in which knowledge and experiences will be shared e.g. between agronomists and farmers, and on facilitating stakeholders in accessing investments and funding opportunities.
The discussions of the Conference concluded that new technologies, big data, drones, and the Internet of Things, among others, have the potential to significantly improve the agrifood sector. For example, precision agriculture and smart farming technologies are at the core of ongoing discussions taking place about the post 2020-Common Agricultural Policy, as they are expected to be the main tools for the assessment of related policies that are in place and therefore for policy making based on facts and data (such as CAP declarations and controls using earth observation data).
As regards innovation, it can be integrated through various ways throughout the agrifood chain, from the producers to the consumers, thus improving the production, management and marketing of food by using new technologies and available data.
You can find more information and related material from the EU Agricultural Outlook 2018 on the Conference website.