Hiring people with the right skills and talent – including those from outside the industry – has been shown to be the top priority for British farmers over the next 12 months.
Research commissioned by McDonald’s UK and carried out by the National Farm Research Unit found farmers were increasingly looking to other sectors to bridge the skills gap, with 62 per cent of respondents saying attracting talent from outside of agriculture was vital.
One in five of those surveyed expected to increase the number of people they hired from non-farming backgrounds over the next five years, and 86 per cent believed recruiting the best employees was key to making the industry globally competitive.
Technology was at the forefront of farmers’ thoughts when recruiting, with two-thirds believing technological advances would require a new set of expertise such as digital skills, business knowledge and an understanding of data analytics and coding.
Andrew Francis, farm manager at Elveden Farm Estate and potato supplier to McDonald’s, said: “We are using drones and GPS guidance to improve the timing and accuracy when we apply fertiliser to our crops.
“This increases yields, reduces waste and keeps both our carbon and water footprint at optimal levels for efficient food production.
“Technology skills are increasingly important as more of our monitoring, application machinery and grading equipment is digitally operated.
“We see the best results when we have people in place who understand the technology and how to apply it.”
The research showed two-thirds of farmers were already using or looking to use satellite mapping and precision farming techniques such as sensors, GPS controlled machinery and predictive analysis to ensure crops and livestock get exactly what they need.
Just under half of respondents (44 per cent) said the same of big data analytics and remote sensing technology which takes real-time measurements on crop height and weather conditions (49 per cent).
Drone technology and robotics were only slightly behind, with 39 per cent and 34 per cent of farmers saying they were using or planning to use this technology.
Connor McVeigh, supply chain director at McDonald’s UK, said: “The farming industry is currently facing some big challenges, but it is encouraging to see farmers being front-footed in their investment to ensure the UK remains at the forefront of producing great quality produce.”