Farmers say digital technologies are “key” to productivity and sustainability

Martin Banks

Belgium, (Brussels Morning Newspaper) Farmers in Europe urgently need government support to increase their use of digital tools, in light of increasing environmental and economic pressures facing Europe and Africa’s farming industry. 

These are the results of a new independent ‘Farmers and Digitalisation’ survey, published on 8 November.

Over 600 farmers across 13 countries in Europe and Africa were asked about their current attitudes towards digitalising their farms, environmental challenges faced and current geopolitical and societal pressures impacting supply chains and rising equipment and materials costs.

As expected, climate change is top of the list of threats facing farmers in Europe and Africa. Nearly all farmers surveyed in Europe (97%) say climate change is impacting the financial viability of their farms to an extent. Farmers in Africa are similarly concerned, with 93% feeling the same way. Other threats cited by farmers include fuel and energy costs – impacted by the war in Ukraine – as well as low market prices for crops and livestock, and lack of support from the public sector.

Building more resilient and sustainable farms will take a digital approach

The survey reveals farmers are already using digital tools to reduce fertiliser use, water use, and to improve soil health. What’s more, over two-thirds of farmers in Europe (88%) and Africa (89%) feel that digital technologies can help farming succeed in the future.

Use of digital farming technology will increase according to results, with farmers saying they’re willing to invest more in this area to help them combat issues like climate change. Almost all farmers (96% in Europe and 94% in Africa) plan to invest more in digital tools in the next 12 months.

Barriers to further digital adoption

However, there are clear barriers for widespread and continual adoption of digital agriculture tools. 92% of European farmers and 87% of African farmers surveyed want more government support to help address issues like the cost of devices and other hardware which was cited as a particular barrier by nearly half of farmers on both continents.

Results show that it’s not just about financial support: 40% of farmers in Europe and 54% in Africa want training on how to use digital solutions. Connectivity is also a key ask with 35% in Europe and 36% in Africa saying that better mobile internet connectivity is something their government can do to encourage them to use more digital tools on their farm.

The survey was conducted by Savanta ComRes and commissioned by Vodafone Group.

Joakim Reiter, Chief External and Corporate Affairs Officer, Vodafone Group, said: “This survey should read as a plea for help from farmers who are facing unprecedented challenges. It’s vital both the private and public sectors work together to provide this community with access to the digital technologies, information and training they require to develop their practises. 

“We must transform restrictive regulatory policies and practices around digital, cloud and data services, and create an enabling environment that supports innovations like cloud computing. By doing so, farmers will have the opportunity to access the critical agricultural insights they need to farm more effectively.”

Vinod Kumar, CEO, Vodafone Business, added: “From working with farmers across Europe and Africa over the past eight years, we’ve come to understand the harsh realities of how the challenges echoed in the survey are threatening the future of not only their farms but the entire industry.

“While it is positive to see this community already embracing digital solutions, more must be done to guarantee that Europe and Africa fully embrace precision agriculture. By helping farmers to digitise their operations, we’re helping to reduce the barriers preventing faster connectivity roll-out, which in turn helps farmers alleviate costs and increase yields to ensure a more robust and sustainable future for the agriculture industry.”

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Brussels Morning is a daily online newspaper based in Belgium. BM publishes unique and independent coverage on international and European affairs. With a Europe-wide perspective, BM covers policies and politics of the EU, significant Member State developments, and looks at the international agenda with a European perspective.
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Martin Banks is an experienced British-born journalist who has been covering the EU beat (and much else besides) in Brussels since 2001. Previously, he had worked for many years in regional journalism in the UK and freelanced for national titles. He has a keen interest in foreign affairs and has closely followed the workings of the European Parliament and MEPs in particular for some years.