For many, smart farming is a prerequisite for the current and future challenges in agriculture. While they see many opportunities, others see many challenges. This was discussed with a wide forum of organisations during a high-level event in the European Parliament. The meetings were organised by Internet of Food and Farm 2020 and SmartAgriHubs, two major European programmes working on digitalisation, and both coordinated by Wageningen University & Research.
In the first session, the discussion focused on the issue of digitalisation. It provides huge potential, also in contributing to the Global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Cases studied in projects report on KPIs linked to these SDGs to demonstrate real benefits. In spite of these benefits, some stress that there are challenges, such as a lack of digital skills or infrastructure. Several people stressed the importance of consumer trust, the need for education and the desire to re-connect consumers to food and farmers. Another important issue is the use of a Food System Approach, to ensure that both agriculture and farmers are part of a bigger system, that should be taken into account.
Data management is an important aspect of smart farming. Data governance was mentioned as a topic that needs to be properly addressed. Digitalisation is an essential part of the Common Agricultural Policy and in particular, included in the Farm to Fork strategy and the Green Deal. Various representatives of industry mentioned Artificial intelligence (AI) as the next big wave in digitalisation in agriculture.
How can smart farming benefit European citizens? Smart farming is an important element in the nine objectives of the Common Agriculture Policy. With other programmes like Digital Europe Programme, Connecting Europe Facility and Horizon Europe, it can contribute to the Green Deal. Jannes Maes of CEJA (Young farmers association) emphasised the opportunities provided by smart farming, such as real-time and remote management opportunities. He made it clear that it is important to include farmers in research projects and make innovations accessible, as farmers are essential for the implementation of innovations. Accessibility has to do with affordability but also with trust. Coordinator of the Internet Food and Farm 2020 project, George Beers, was the final speaker. He stressed the link with other sectors outside the domain of agriculture.