As presented by Miguel De Porras, Director at the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture FIBL, the new Common Agricultural Policy has identified the need to increase competitiveness and agricultural productivity in a sustainable way through the use of new technologies as one of its key objectives. Additionally, the Farm2Fork’s objective to increase production of organic food by 25% inevitably requires the uptake of new digital and technical solutions.
The need to boost new skills for digital farming has been discussed during a dedicated seminar held by the EIP-AGRI, which highlighted that the sector workforce presents a low skill level in comparison with the digital solutions available. In this context, a series of EU-funded projects were presented as key initiatives to lead the digital transition while facilitating the exchange of knowledge among farmers through activity demonstrations and online resources. Yet, findings from the DESIRA project reinforce the idea that innovation in the agri-food sector must be tailored to specific local contexts.
EU-wide partnerships and research and innovation initiatives provide farmers, businesses, research institutes and academia, and policy-makers with increasing support to launch pilots and gain expertise in the field. In this context, George Beers, Horticultural Engineer at the Wageningen University and Research, presented two Horizon2020 EU-wide projects. The first one, the IoF2020 project aims to demonstrate and deliver the benefits of high-tech tools focusing on five agriculture sectors: arable crops, dairy, fruits, vegetables, and meat. The Internet of Things (IoT) enables the use of different digital prototypes with different flows of information & solutions and integrates them into existing farm systems. All the information has been collected and made available to farmers and practitioners in the online “Use Case Catalogue”.
The SmartAgriHub project is a network of Digital Innovation Hubs consisting of 2000 Competences Centres and 28 Flagship Innovation Experiments (FIE). The project offers a space to develop ideas, prototypes, and a place in the innovative smart farming techniques market. At the same time, it embeds a network of Regional Clusters, which ensure that newly developed knowledge and tools are accessible to local farmers.
Lastly, Mladen Petres, Assistant Provincial Secretary of Agriculture, Water Management and Forestry of the Province of Vojvodina in Serbia, shared the measures launched in the region, including direct subsidies for farmers to increase the purchase of relevant up-to-date equipment in the sector, ranging from greenhouse infrastructure to start-up programs for farmers. Additionally, the BioSense Institute launched the AgroSense platform, which provides farmers with digital services, enabling them to monitor from satellite crop production to digitalised data on the chemical condition of the soil.
Hence, meaningful opportunities and practices are available to help European regions and farmers increase their agricultural productivity while protecting the environment and ensuring the inclusiveness of the workforce.