While most UK farmers are using agri-tech, many are doubtful of its ability to help them meet net zero targets, a nationwide survey by Agri-EPI Centre has revealed.
The Agri-EPI research sought to understand how and why farmers are using agri-tech, shed light on barriers to its use and explore the technologies farmers think will be needed in the future.
The research, conducted through interviews with farmers across the UK, found that 78% are using some form of agri-tech, with the highest adoption rates among younger farmers and those with large farms. The biggest reasons for its use are increased productivity and profitability.
Yet, while the same percentage (78%) of farmers believe that it is important to reduce their farm’s greenhouse gas emissions (rising to 94% of those under the age of 45), only just above a third (35%) are confident that technology will help them reach net zero carbon emissions.
One reason for this could be that farmers need greater skills and support to understand the benefits of technology and to adopt it. The research found only half of farmers rate their skills in using agri-tech as ‘good’, with less than half (43%) of all farmers interviewed feeling well supported in introducing or making better use of existing technology.
Agri-EPI centre’s Chief Executive, David Ross, said: “While the majority of UK farmers recognise that agri-tech has an important role in supporting their priorities of productivity and profit, we are struck by the fact that only around a third felt tech has a role to play in environmental sustainability.
“Technology is one of the solutions to helping farmers reduce their emissions –agri-tech that helps farmers be more efficient and productive usually offers a win-win for sustainability.
“The findings of our research provide important insights for Agri-EPI and our fellow Agri-Tech Centres, as well as for those with a role in developing, evaluating and promoting technology, particularly the agri-food sector, policy makers, agri-tech companies and the R&D community. The farmers we spoke to told us they need accessible training, funding, and more evidence and independent advice to help them make the best use of agri-tech. We want to collaborate with partners across all of areas to ensure the benefits of agri-tech is make clear and the avenues to adoption are easily accessible.”
Of the farmers interviewed who are using agri-tech, popular technologies include machine guidance systems (40% reported they are using this), soil mapping (35%), livestock growth monitoring (30%) and variable rate application (28%).
Robotics and automation for a variety of purposes featured strongly in farmers’ thoughts on the tech that will be important for the future, along with the capability to integrate data gathered by different systems on the farm.
Robotics and automation for a variety of purposes featured strongly in farmers’ thoughts on the tech that will be important for the future, along with the capability to integrate data gathered by different systems on the farm. The findings of the research will be discussed at Agri-EPI’s annual conference, titled The Path to Sustainability, on 28 October.