Agri-tech could boost farmers’ profitability but the political uncertainty surrounding Brexit is stopping them from investing in it, writes Mollie Leach.
NFU Mutual research showed how technology such as robotic pickers or fitness trackers for cows can increase farm productivity and profitability.
Ali Capper, NFU mutual director and Worcestershire fruit and hop grower, said: “For livestock farmers, technology is offering opportunities to improve breeding programmes, better manage the health and welfare of stock, and match production to the demands of the market.
“Technology can help us reduce production costs, enabling us to compete on world markets.”
But Ms Capper said farmers were putting investment in agri-tech on hold because of the long-running drama in Westminster.
“The Brexit debate, and uncertainty over future agricultural support, has made this an incredibly challenging process for the UK’s farmers,” she added.
Fang Wang, an NFU Mutual business analyst, echoed these concerns.
She said: “Across the world, new agri-technology is set to make a major impact on farm profitability and even world prices.
“In the UK, the adoption of new technology is currently slow because of uncertainty over agricultural policy and support, lack of understanding, shortage of capital and concerns about the reliability of first-generation technology.”
NFU Mutual has put together the report in a bid to ensure farmers continue to keep up-to-date with technological developments, in spite of the political uncertainty, to minimise risk and harness the benefits of data-based farming.
Charlie Yorke, a technology insurance specialist at NFU Mutual, said: “Fast-changing agri-tech is creating exciting new opportunities for farming businesses.
“Robotics and autonomous machines have the potential to boost farm productivity and improve safety.”
Ms Capper said she hoped some clarity on the way ahead for UK farming would make it easier for farmers to invest in the best of developing technology.
“[By doing so], we will be at the forefront of the agricultural revolution and combine sustainable production of top-quality food with high welfare standards, while moving towards carbon neutral farming,” she said.