What will farmers’ work look like in 2060? How to produce more or better food with fewer inputs and lower environmental and climate impacts? Digital technologies in agriculture figure high on the European Union's agenda, with around €100 million available under the Horizon 2020 work programme 2018-20 to advance the development and uptake of digital technologies in agriculture and rural areas and anticipate the impacts of the digital revolution. Speaking at the "Digitising agriculture and food value chains" conference on 17 November 2017 in Brussels, European policy makers outline policy developments under both agricultural research and innovation and digital policies and how digital technologies can bring forward the agriculture and food sectors, contributing to European Union goals such as competiveness and sustainability.
Agriculture has always been an innovative sector, adapting to a changing world and new settings. Research, innovation and agriculture go hand in hand, and the European Union has done a great deal in connecting farmers and researchers in the European Innovation Partnership for agriculture (EIP-AGRI). The challenges farmers are facing today are immense: producing more and better from less, at affordable prices, while reducing their impact on the environment and keeping pace with consumer demands, and all of this in the light of climate change and volatile global markets. Digital technologies can help adapt to those challenges, supporting farmers in their efforts to produce our food in a sustainable way: tracking weather patterns and biodiversity, sensors for animal welfare, tools to assess exact state of soils and plants or swarms of drones destroying weeds, reducing need for herbicides or antimicrobials, or the internet of things connecting all levels of the value chain. On the farm, but also for consumer needs, digital technologies can bring a lot of benefits. New technologies increase food safety and traceability, from farm to fork. Building on growing customer demands on content and safety of their food, farmers could build on a more customised and possibly more localised food offer. In addition digital technologies can contribute to common agricultural policy (CAP) modernisation and simplication.
Precision farming promotes sustainable farming
Precision farming in particular has become the focus of much of the innovation in sustainable farming, technology's response to the need to produce more with less and in a sustainable manner. In simple terms, precision farming means using technologies such as satellite positioning systems to improve production - for example through monitoring crops and providing data on how best to treat them to increase yields. Monitoring and analysing agricultural data thanks to sensor systems can also improve irrigation management for high water-consumer crops, thus promoting sustainable farming.
More on the future of the CAP: Robots in the field?
Main funding opportunities:
- RUR-02-2018: Socio-economic impacts of digitisation of agriculture and rural areas
- RUR-13-2018: Enabling the farm advisor community to prepare farmers for the digital age
- RUR-14-2018: Digital solutions and e-tools to modernise the CAP
- DT-RUR-12-2018: ICT Innovation for agriculture – Digital Innovation Hubs for Agriculture
- DT-ICT-08-2019.- Agricultural digital cross-cutting integration platforms
- DT-ICT-09-2020.- Digital service platforms for rural economies (details to be published at a later stage)
Infoday (14 November 2017): Rural renaissance session
17 November 2017