A striking feature of the recent member ‘give and get exchange’ was the willingness of the growers to get involved in trials and be first adopters for technologies that might make them more productive, profitable or sustainable. Their enthusiasm was met with an equal commitment from the technologists to really understand what “smarter” means in an agricultural context; to find out from endusers how it would be useful to have the various components – crops, livestock, machinery, staff, control systems – connected to each other.
Another reoccurring theme was the absence of barriers. Both companies and the producers were global in their outlook. Many mentioned that benefits of bringing technologies that had been proven in harsher environments – Spain, the Australian outback, Sub-Saharan Africa – and seeing how they could be used to improve resilience to extreme weather in the UK
Farming “smarter, not harder” has the potential to tick all the boxes of increasing outputs, efficiency and environmental benefits, while reducing inputs and any adverse impacts.
Agri-Tech East’s membership represents the value chain for innovation up to the farm gate. As such we have been invited to be part of a Europe-wide consortium to help link technology developers with farmers and academics across Europe.
The initiative called Smart-AKIS is one of a number of networks to promote the underlying technologies and ideas behind the concept of the “Connected Farm.”crucially, to build the network for dissemination about smart farming innovations.
Whatever happens following the Brexit discussions, irrespective of the politics, the point remains that ideas and collaborations are not constrained by artificial administrative or political borders.
People with the skills to develop, implement and adopt new ideas are found in every country across the globe. What we need to do is to help ensure that as far as possible, collaborative conversations are able to happen, as efficiently and effectively as possible.
Smart-AKIS is one such vehicle that can help and ‘smarter not harder’ will be the theme of a workshop in May.
We did some work a couple of years ago to understand better how farmers hear about new innovation. That study revealed that social media, other farmers, and trusted advisors rank among the top mechanisms to hear about new ways of working.
Early adopters of potentially disruptive approaches need the opportunity to share their experience with others. Workshops provide a forum for those who are willing to share headline figures about efficiency gains, ecosystem service benefits and, crucially, the return on investment.
Making the decision to “get connected” – in whatever form – takes time, effort and resource – but it is critical to ensure effective dissemination of smart farming technology outputs.
The ‘give and get’ meeting was heartwarming as it demonstrated that a great number of members are willing to make that investment. As it is only through that connectivity that we can start to reap the many rewards that await.