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There is a pressing need for overarching digital strategies to unlock the potential of digitisation in the agricultural sector. Digital technologies can help European farmers increase their profitability and reduce their environmental impact, however they are more effective when supported by public policy. In the northern part of Germany, the region of Schleswig-Holstein has just set up a digital strategy which takes farming into account. What are the benefits of such a strategy for agriculture?
“In Schleswig-Holstein we want to keep the region modern and up-to-date. We decided to set ourselves the goal to become the digital flagship region of Germany. In doing so, we have set up a so-called ‘Digitisation Cabinet’ that ensures a clear and comprehensive digitisation strategy for Schleswig-Holstein”, says Heinrich Terwitte. Heinrich is head of unit in the regional ministry and in charge of the digital strategy for agriculture.
“To set up a digital strategy, our government hired a consulting firm from Berlin. In less than one year, they managed to set up a strategy, working together with different stakeholders in Schleswig-Holstein, including our regional ministries. Agriculture is part of this digital strategy because farmers are still the backbone of our rural areas. In 2018, the regional government agreed on the strategy, so we can now start with implementing the actions that are on the agenda.”
To involve farmers in their digital strategy, Schleswig-Holstein organised a workshop to gather the main ideas. Terwitte: “We invited farmers via institutions such as the Farmers Union. Besides the workshop, we have established a permanent group of interested experts. Their role is to give us (the ministry/administration) feedback and background information on agricultural topics. We are particularly aiming to involve farmers that are participating in EIP-AGRI Operational Groups and already have a digital agenda. We are trying to compile the existing expertise so that we can find solutions together for problems in the field of, for example, data security and rural internet availability.”
Benefiting from digital solutions efficiently in the agriculture works the best when there is a reliable mobile network available. Terwitte: “We already heard from several farmers that they have to deal with a bad mobile connection, which causes trouble when they are working with, for instance, automatically driven tractors. Therefore, we decided that by 2025, fibre-optic connections should be available to all households and buildings in Schleswig-Holstein. However, as a regional authority you depend also on nationwide decision-making”.
Terwitte has some advice for public authorities that are planning to set up a digital strategy: “When it comes to implementing digital strategies, it is important that the authorities have the will and the financial resources. You can increase the credibility and success rate of your digital strategy via financial resources for small experimental projects. For us, EIP-AGRI Operational Group projects are a good tool for this. In 2018 we had an EIP-AGRI call and we promised a bonus for all projects that were dealing with digitisation”, concludes Terwitte.
If you would like to disseminate this inspirational idea in your own network, please have a look at the full press article, which includes a shorter version and pictures you can use.
Contact person: Heinrich Terwitte Heinrich.Terwitte@melund.landsh.de
Project sheet from EIP-AGRI seminar: https://ec.europa.eu/eip/agriculture/sites/agri-eip/files/2018-sem-antwerp-posters_final_03_digital_intersection_agriculture.pdf