Investing in tech-savvy young people could lead the way in removing the barriers which are preventing the industry unlocking its digital potential.
This was the call from the owners of Hof ten Bosch, a Bayer ForwardFarming site in Brussels, Belgium, who said educating and inspiring the next generation was key to growing agri businesses.
The 140-hectare (345-acre) arable farm uses precision farming and digitisation to help produce one third of all potatoes used for crisps in Brussels.
Jan Peeters, who manages the farm with his brother Josse, said: “The average age of farmers in Belgium is 55. In order to assure a sustainable future for farming, we have to find ways to include younger generations.”
Philipp-Andreas Schmidt, who represents Bayer at the European Institutes on digital farming and digital policy issues, said the company was working on three objectives to help farmers work more in a more targeted and efficient manner.
He said mobile phone technology carried ‘huge potential’ and had a positive effect on agriculture through its use of real time information and an ability to improve decision-making.
It came as new research by Rural England and Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) found nearly four out of five businesses said digital technologies were essential to their future growth potential.
Mr Schmidt said: “As the demographic of farming changes, many young farmers are taking over management responsibilities and digital technologies will play an ever more important role.
“We are actually sharing a lot of the information we gather from our scouting apps to help scientists understand what is growing in the field, how weeds move through, how are they growing, how often or frequent they do so and how this changes over the years.
“Young farmers expect to be able to use the same technologies and have similar connectivity to people in urban areas. Certainly this is critical to encourage young people to remain in agriculture.”