Precision Agriculture - What do EU farmers want?
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Many of society’s most important activities, such as the production of food, constitute some of the globe’s most carbon-intensive industries. In the European context, there are the compounded strains of feeding an aging and growing population, the rise of food prices, and the EU resolve to implement the Green Deal and make Europe a climate neutral continent. Retailers are also experiencing a greater demand from consumers for sustainability and traceability. This presents several challenges for an already complex industry. Furthermore, an increase in global climate variations is making farming less predictable.
Many commercial farmers have identified ways to leverage digital technologies to make existing agricultural practices more precise. Precision farming techniques are expanding within the sector. They also vary and range from simple, low-cost practices (such as replacing sprayer nozzles to avoid overuse of pesticides) to employing sensors and meters that help conserve usage of agricultural inputs such as water, fertilisers, and plant protecting products (PPPs). According to a 2022 European Commission impact assessment, the use of this technology can help farmers to achieve up to a 27.9% reduction in herbicide use for crops of pulses such as peas. The same document suggests that adopting these techniques under certain conditions would have little or no impact on crop yields.
More complex approaches use drone technology for geo-spatial imaging and mapping, harness big data and AI technology to better understand fluctuations of farming conditions, and leverage cloud computer systems that foster peer-to- peer learning. By offering (in many cases) near real-time data, farmers can make more informed decisions.
Proponents also champion precision farming for its role in maximising the use of agriculture inputs while minimising the sectors impact on the environment. However, there are barriers to adoption. Many of these systems require high-quality connectivity in rural areas, enhanced digital skills, and regulatory assurances that farmers will be able to fully benefit from their investments.
This EURACTIV-GIGAEurope Digital Debate will examine the role that digital technologies can play in global efforts to address food security issues and make agriculture more sustainable. Questions to be addressed include:
- What are the current attitudes and adoption rates of precision agriculture tools of Europe’s farms?
- What environmental challenges do farmers face and what is the role precision agriculture can play in tackling these?
- What is industry doing to address farmers’ concerns around privacy and data ownership?
- What sort of regulatory assurances can policymakers provide if farmers invest in precision farming tools?
Head of Unit, Environmental Sustainability, DG AGRI, European Commission
Franc Bogovic MEP
AGRI Committee, European Parliament
Secretary General, Copa Cogeca
14:30 – 14:35 Welcome
14:35 – 14:55 Panellist statements
14:55 – 15:40 Discussion and Q&A
15:40 – 15:45 Closing statements
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Commission: Precision agriculture key to farming ‘double challenge’
Digital technologies can help farming tackle the 'double imperative' of greening the sector while ensuring food security, according to a European Commission official. But high investment costs and poor connectivity in rural areas might stand in the way.