The EIP-AGRI Focus Group on 'Mainstreaming Precision Farming' brought together 19 experts, including scientists, farmers, advisers, and agribusiness to address current opportunities, limitations and transferable innovative solutions on the topic of Precision Farming. In particular, the Focus Group addressed the main question of how to organise data capture and processing to mainstream the application of Precision Farming for input and yield optimisation, while trying to identify the main reasons behind the current lack of adoption, and identifying the key barriers to the implementation of Precision Farming on European farms. EIP-AGRI stands for European Innovation Partnership 'Agricultural Productivity and Sustainability' and was launched by the European Commission in 2012.
The group agreed that while data compatibility and management were important issues, there are also other fundamental barriers to adoption on EU farms. The utility of many Precision Farming applications has not yet been demonstrated. They also pointed out that Precision Farming needs the collaboration of all stakeholders for it to be widely adopted. The group therefore focused on why farmers would take up Precision Farming, the role of advisers, cost-benefit analysis and strategies for medium and small farm holdings, technical solutions and data management and compatibility and the role of public-funded research.
Some recommendations in short:
- Farmers and cooperatives need to play a major role in innovation and in research on decision support systems and technical solutions to current problems
- Independent advisers have a key role in mainstreaming Precision Farming and must be provided with appropriate knowledge, training and experience
- Scientifically reliable Precision Farming calculator tools need to be developed or adapted to take into account geographic regions, cropping and livestock systems and socio-economic variability
- Precision Farming tools that are specifically designed for small and medium-sized farms are needed
- Regional training and awareness are essential to reach advisers and small and medium-sized farms
- Major steps are still required for the introduction and further development of
a. electric drives to facilitate precise electronic control;
b. Internet of Things to facilitate machine and processor communication;
c. nanotechnology and biosensors;
d. drones and autonomous platforms
- Technical solutions also need to be developed to generate ‘as-applied’ maps that can be combined with other data for making further management decisions
- New business models for data management are needed; sharing and open-data sources should be developed.