Smart farmers

Background

‘Farmers must think before investing in digitisation’

Any type of technical advancement always involves extra costs. If these investments don’t pay off in the long term, digitisation is no more than an expensive hobby.

Making sure investments in agricultural digitisation is a major challenge for farmers, according to Professor Dr. Matthias Schick of the agricultural competence center Strickhof, Divisional Management Animal Husbandry & Dairy Industry, Lindau (Switzerland) and Ferdinand Mersch, of the North Rhine-Westphalia Chamber of Agriculture (Germany).

New technologies at Agritechnica

In an article Schick and Mersch wrote in response to all the new technologies being displayed at Agritechnica 2019, they state that “all farmers should think about how digitisation, electronics and improved farm management systems can support them in their daily work, increase their working productivity, reduce their workload and improve their added value.”

Extra costs for digital and automated systems

Any type of technical advancement always involves extra costs. Compared to conventional process technology, additional costs of 15 to 40% can be expected for digital and automated systems, according to Schick and Mersch.

“With optional extras, an increase of more than 100% is even possible. So that these investments pay off in the long term, either performance must be increased and/or the required working time per unit of production – with consistent quality – decreased. Otherwise, digitisation is no more than an expensive hobby!”

Text continues underneath image

The questions of simple handling, added value, data sovereignty and data security have still not been completely answered, say Schick and Mersch. - Photo: Mark Pasveer
The questions of simple handling, added value, data sovereignty and data security have still not been completely answered, say Schick and Mersch. - Photo: Mark Pasveer

Savings in work and farm inputs

In general, the use of automation reduces the time required for production-related activities by up to 30%, according to Schick and Mersch. “The savings in farm inputs also lie in a clearly measurable range. At the same time, the physical load also drops. Less physically straining and monotonous activities need to be carried out.”

Digitisation should not be viewed as a general solution for escaping the great amount of work required on many farms

However, the physical strain and the time required for farm management increases, and more monitoring must be carried out. “Because of this, digitisation should not be viewed as a general solution for escaping the great amount of work required on many farms.”

Networking of individual systems in the field

Schick and Mersch further say that another major challenge is the networking of individual systems in the field and their integration in operational and business-related decision-making processes. “Many different sensors and entire robot systems from various manufacturers are (still) not completely compatible with each other.”

Also, the questions of simple handling, added value, data sovereignty and data security have still not been completely answered, say Schick and Mersch.

Text continues underneath image

A farmer is placing soil moisture sensors. The networking of individual systems in the field and their integration in operational and business-related decision-making processes is still a challenge, say Schick and Mersch. - Photo: Ruud Ploeg
A farmer is placing soil moisture sensors. The networking of individual systems in the field and their integration in operational and business-related decision-making processes is still a challenge, say Schick and Mersch. - Photo: Ruud Ploeg

Improve added value

Farmers must think before they invest, conclude Schick and Mersch. “Automation and digitisation are increasingly on the advance in all agricultural production processes. Before investing in new technologies, all farmers should think about how digitisation, electronics and improved farm management systems can support them in their daily work, increase their working productivity, reduce their workload and improve their added value. If these questions can be answered satisfactorily, then the trend to digitisation can be viewed as a positive one.”

Or register to be able to comment.