France’s farming community has already started introducing new technologies but it’s still concerned about the cost as well as the lack of information on the ‘right choices’ of equipment. Over the past five years, precision farming in France has made significant progress with a growing number of farmers willing to be part of the new promising trend.
Broadband infrastructure might not be a problem for the country; however, French farmers are faced with a number of challenges before they prepare for an innovation-driven future.
Smart farming hinges on e-skills and rural internet access
The digitisation of agriculture could help Europe address food security and environmental issues at the same time. But realising this vision will require e-skills, proper broadband infrastructure and big data management, experts warn.
Vernet noted that between 2010 and 2014 there were more than 5,000 new patent registrations worldwide in the field. 70% of those new agriculture patents were assigned to North America and only 15% in Europe.
Making the right choice
Sébastien Windsor is a French precision farmer. He has already introduced new technology practices in his everyday farming, such as drones and sensors to seed sugar beet and corn. He prioritised access to affordable technologies.The cost to get digitalised is an issue for French farmers and the adoption of precision farming, which will result in less pesticide use, is a consumer demand.
“We should deliver this demand. But in order to do so, we need an affordable cost that will help us maintain our income,” he said.
An important challenge for farmers in Europe is to make the right choices regarding the technologies that can be used on their farms.
“The capacity of selecting the good equipment is an issue because lots of people are getting to that market and very often are a bit lost in their choice. Many farmers wonder where they can get some good advice on choosing the most appropriate system for them and their tractors,” Windsor emphasised.
Last but not least for French farmers, is how they can connect their devices together.
“We may have a device on the tractor, another device in a computer that records what we are doing and a device for the satellite photo. We need to be able to connect the data of these devices in order to avoid entering the same data several times a day,” he stated.
The role of cooperatives in precision farming is crucial, experts say, claiming that they could help farmers embrace the new technologies by sharing the costs. Over the last five years, French farmers have increasingly found themselves using precision farming technologies in their fields.
An example is the French drone manufacturer AIRINOV, whose precision fertilising had a positive impact on farmers’ income and the environment. A three-year study showed that thanks to fertilization advice on wheat by drone, French farmers increased their gains by €69 per hectare.
Precision farming could play a leading role in making EU agriculture more sustainable. But green NGOs claim that the concentration of food production in the hands of the agri-food industry will have catastrophic consequences. AIRINOV helped farmers make more money by saving fertiliser and improving its yields, and thus, protecting the environment.
Photo by Mauricio Lima / Flickr