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Vouchers to stimulate use of precision ag in Europe

EU Member States are being called upon to devise technology vouchers fostering precision farming in Europe.

CEETTAR, the European Confederation of Agricultural, Rural and Forestry Contractors and CEMA, the European Agricultural Machinery Industry Association have come together to propose an innovative incentive in the form of “smart technologies voucher” under the CAP (common agricultural policy) 2021 – 2027 that would allow farmers to access advanced technologies delivered by land-based contractors.

This is to offer small and medium-sized farms the possibility to use new technologies, that they not themselves are able to finance.

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All types of farms to benefit from technology

By using the equipment and the skilled workforce provided by contractors, all types of farms are to benefit from the same quality of technology in proportion of their respective size. This would allow small farm-holdings to compete with bigger farms equipped with the most-advanced equipment, which is also to have an indirect positive effect on rural development.

Precision farming tools to penetrate the market faster

New invoicing and payment systems could be used by farmers, foresters by which the added value brought by contractors will be identified to the detail. Another effect can be, that precision farming tools penetrate the market faster because the acceptance will be faster as well – without having the risk of spending money for new technologies.

Farm holdings of all sizes would be better able to test the additional value of precision farming technologies through their contractors first, before potentially considering a new investment.

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A farmer looks at his smartphone to analyse the weather using a personal weather station. With the vouchers, precision farming tools - such as weather stations - could penetrate the market faster because the acceptance by farmers will be faster as well - without having the risk of spending money for new technologies.  - Photo: AFP
A farmer looks at his smartphone to analyse the weather using a personal weather station. With the vouchers, precision farming tools - such as weather stations - could penetrate the market faster because the acceptance by farmers will be faster as well - without having the risk of spending money for new technologies. - Photo: AFP

Technology neutral

According to CEETTAR and CEMA, the voucher system should be technology neutral and as harmonised as possible across the EU to avoid market distortions. It should exclude unauthorised alterations of the equipment or retrofits that void the original type-approval of the machinery.

It should be well defined in time and scope, to provide enough legal certainty to investors, contractors and manufacturers. Additional proportional support should also be provided to the farmer who adopts at least 4 technologies, proving that he/she is using a full set of digital tools on the farm.

Entice young people

The amount of the voucher provided to the farmer is to depend on the total amount of hectares that the farmer would use the precision agricultural services from the contractor for.

CEETTAR and CEMA further say that providing indirect support to contractors through such vouchers will also entice young people to be part of a business environment that is increasingly important in rural areas.

Young farmers will not need thereby to increase their operating costs and they will be enabled to hire more skilled work. Benefits for the farmer will also include higher yield and lower input costs, states the joint position paper.

Available in all Member States

Finally, vouchers should be available in all Member States in order to ensure a geographical level playing field in terms of use of precision technologies. In this view agricultural technologies standard values would need to be determined at the member state level.

Precision agriculture technologies

As a starting point, the advanced technologies to be considered as part of precision agriculture are, according to CEETTAR and CEMA:

  1. DGPS or Camera Based Machine-/Implement Guidance systems
  2. Advanced data acquisition and communication technology incl. sensors for machine, soil, crop and weather attribute determination in conjunction with DGPS positioning to capture temporal and spatial variability of such attributes incl. storage and transfer to a central data storage location such as on online agricultural data portal or desktop software application.
  3. Equipment for measuring of yield and NIR data as nutrient and dry matter content etc.
  4. Variable Rate Application equipment (VRA) for graduation of nutrient, spraying etc. and logging of “As applied data”. This equipment may be required in some Member States to minimise environmental impact.
  5. Technology on tractors and implements enabling data analysis based on soil scanning/yield analysis and a site-specific application of soil- or crop treatment based on a pre-defined prescription map (application map) to variably treat/apply plants or products according to in-field management zones or even at individual plant level.
  6. Decision Support tools and services including data analytics and data interpretation  services to obtain expert advice through consultation services specialised in the field of Precision Agriculture, in the overall goal of either growing yield and crop quality with the same amount of inputs, or retaining yield and crop quality at reduced levels of inputs.

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