Smart farmers

Background

"Digitalisation in agriculture is not simple"

CEMA represents the European machinery manufacturers. For Anthony van der Ley digitalisation is a primary concern. The exchange of data between brands, for example, is not as smooth as we would like.

There is no shortage of experience on the CV of Anthony van der Ley, president of CEMA, the interest group for European manufacturers of agricultural machinery and tractors. He has been president since June 2018, alongside his role as CEO of the German machinery manufacturer Lemken. He is the first CEMA president not to come from a tractor manufacturer. The Dutchman has previously worked for Westfalia, Kverneland, and Kuhn.

Where would you like to make the greatest changes during your term as President of CEMA?

“The key area for attention in my view is that Europe must be and remain the forerunner in the digitalisation of agriculture. But digitalisation is not a simple process. Dealers, installers and farmers are exasperated because it is not possible to exchange data between machines of different brands, which is a shame, because digitalisation is the future. The reason: in the past expensive systems were set up by different manufacturers who wanted to be the pioneers.”

What other topics will you be devoting attention to over the coming period?

“CEMA has drawn up a plan containing 3 key areas that we want to address by 2030. One is safety in the field, but also on the road, when using machinery. The rate of accidents involving agricultural machinery needs to come down. The other area concerns the role of Europe as the forerunner in innovation. It is possible to increase the machinery industry’s contribution towards fruitful and sustainable food production. So far, we are still making too little use of the opportunities. There is little support from governments and general agricultural policy to make this possible. European legislation and regulations need to be organised in such a way that it creates scope for such development and innovation. The same goes for the third area, digitalisation and precision agriculture.”

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Anthony van der Ley (53) worked at Westfalia until 2007. He then worked for Kverneland and Kuhn. Since 2012, he has been CEO of the German machinery manufacturer Lemken. In June of this year, he succeeded Richard Markwell of AGCO as President of CEMA.
Anthony van der Ley (53) worked at Westfalia until 2007. He then worked for Kverneland and Kuhn. Since 2012, he has been CEO of the German machinery manufacturer Lemken. In June of this year, he succeeded Richard Markwell of AGCO as President of CEMA.

What needs to happen in order for this to be addressed?

“We need to harmonise our approach within Europe. There needs to be a clearly defined central point for all farmers from which they can manage and check their data. CEMA is working on new systems that make it easier to manage data and make it simpler for workers, farmers and crop consultants to exchange data.

There are still many differences between countries. The Netherlands, for example, requires a 5G network in order to effectively process data from the field straight away. Quantities of data are increasing all the time, and we need better connections for them. Not all countries need 5G, though, because they are not yet as advanced in terms of their digital development, and that is where the Netherlands is really leading the way. Another example is emissions standards. More time has been given to allow narrow track tractors to comply, and now countries around the Mediterranean Sea are asking for even more time. We are obviously not all on the same page. The issue is how to harmonise everyone’s approach. You have national interest groups to deal with, which is Fedecom in the Netherlands, and we need to unite them.”

Dutch farmers are more advanced in their use of precision agriculture and digitalisation

You mentioned that the Netherlands requires a 5G network and that we are leading the way in that respect. In what way are Dutch farmers more advanced in terms of digitalisation?

“Dutch farmers are more advanced in their use of precision agriculture and digitalisation. Take ISOBUS, a system that allows tractors, machinery and management systems to communicate and share information with one another: the Dutch are happy to use it, and Dutch farmers would love to have yet another GPS system available. In Germany, on the other hand, the system has hardly been sold. German farmers simply want to be able to put their foot on the gas pedal, so to speak.”

Why is it necessary to get everyone on the same page?

“We need to be able to present a united face to EU politicians in order to convey to them what is important for our sector. That is one of the areas that I want to devote my attention to: fostering understanding in Brussels regarding the issues that matter to us as machinery manufacturers. If would be fantastic if we could say by the end of my term as president that machinery manufacturers are being taken seriously by EU legislators. I hope to have achieved that by that time.”

Why do you believe the interest of CEMA to be so important?

“Fostering awareness in Brussels is important because many things depend on the agriculture sector. We simply cannot allow anything to have a negative impact on food production. A good foundation with sustainable and efficient food production is important, but it is only possible if EU legislation and regulations are geared to achieving it. CEMA provides points of reference for drafting legislation that is attuned to agricultural technology. EU politicians need to understand that not everything in the legislation on passenger vehicles can be applied directly to agricultural vehicles. My predecessor Richard Markwell made it clear that an ABS braking system should not be automatically mandatory. He successfully lobbied to prevent tractors unable to travel faster than 60 km per hour from being required to have an ABS system.”

What needs to be achieved by EU legislation as far as digitalisation and data in agriculture are concerned?

“EU funding is necessary in order to develop a 5G network. What’s more, an important issue at play amidst increasing digitalisation is who owns all of that data. Clear rules of play need to be defined. CEMA was one of the pioneers of an initiative whose aim was to make it clear that farmers are and must remain the owners of their own data, and also have control over it. Farmers derive their right to exist from that data.”

I don’t think farmers know exactly what the implications are of digitalisation of agriculture

What do you mean when you say that farmers derive their right to exist from data?

“I read somewhere recently that a company such as Google could have so much agricultural data at its disposal, originating from sensors, for example, that a company with that amount of information available could farm more effectively than 70% of current farmers. We must prevent that from happening. Farmers must remain the owners of their own data before others start using it and farmers lose their right to exist. I believe it is unethical to take possession of farmers’ data. I don’t think farmers know exactly what the implications are of digitalisation of agriculture. That’s a real shame, I think, because it is in fact so important.”

You said that you want European politicians to have begun taking the agricultural mechanisation sector seriously by the end of your term as president. How do you intend to achieve that?

“I will fulfil what I said I will do. That’s a promise I can make. I want to bring people together, initiate dialogues and reach a higher level together. The EU political system is complex and a great deal of lobbying is necessary in Brussels. But you can achieve a great deal with the right people.”

Author: Carolien Kloosterman

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