Two-thirds of farmers feel confident about the future, despite the massive changes facing the industry, a survey of technology needs by Farmers Guardian and New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) has found.
Of the nearly 900 farmers from across the UK surveyed, 15 per cent said they were very confident in the future, 52 per cent were somewhat confident and 32 per cent uncertain.
The survey results show there is an overwhelming desire to farm more sustainably, both environmentally and economically, with 94 per cent agreeing with the statement ‘I like to incorporate sustainability into my farming practices.’ Although farmers have the appetite for change, they are not so sure that they have the support to make those changes as only 64 per cent said they felt their farm adviser or accountant is equipped to support them through the upcoming changes in farm support.
For some, investment in technology will be an important way of adapting to support changes, with 11 per cent saying they will invest more and 33 per cent saying they will maintain current investment levels.
However, 30 per cent said the changes will mean they invest less in farm technology and 36 per cent are yet to decide on a technology investment strategy.
Farmers do love their kit though, with nearly 90 per cent saying they like to use new technology on their farms.
New Zealand company Figured, which creates livestock, dairy, crop budgeting and forecasting tools, says the results are positive, but they also present opportunities for farmers to work closely with their farm advisers to share data.
James Higgie, Figured channel sales manager for the UK and Ireland, says: “With the changes to the farming landscape outlined in the research, it is crucial for farmers to leverage the power of their ‘farming team’ of supporting experts, such as accountants or advisers, who are equipped to support farming businesses wanting to be profitable going forward.
“That can mean advice on how best to approach what is happening both inside and outside the farm office and the products and technologies required to achieve that,” he says.
Although changes in support may be a factor in levels of technology investment, farming needs still drive most investment in farm technology.
“With the changes to the farming landscape outlined in the research, it is crucial for farmers to leverage the power of their ‘farming team’ of supporting experts”
More than half of the farmers surveyed said that lifting productivity by increasing efficiency is their key investment driver.
Solving animal welfare issues or reducing plant disease pressure was the key factor for 20 per cent of farmers, while 13 per cent say sustainability pressure is the greatest investment influence for them.
A further 10 per cent want simple and effective automation.
Buying from machinery dealers and merchants is still the way that most farmers get their machinery and other inputs by a country mile, with 83 per cent using that route.
Only 8 per cent buy online and 5 per cent direct from the manufacturer.
But 70 per cent do turn to the internet when they want more information on what to buy.
Online information might be all well and good, but a chat about the merits of one bit of tech over another with a neighbour or other farmers is still important to more than half of farmers, although only 41 per cent regard themselves as ‘influencers’ who fellow farmers turn to for advice.
There is some patriotism when it comes to agricultural technology, because 37 per cent of those surveyed thought ‘British first’ when thinking about farm tech.
However, in second place was New Zealand and its reputation for excellence.
When asked to rate countries on the agricultural technology they produce, 44 per cent of respondents gave British and German systems an excellent rating, but that was trumped by a 52 per cent excellent rating for New Zealand kit.
Aside from UK machinery, the country’s technology also catches the eye of more farmers than any other country when it comes to advertising.
Nick Swallow, New Zealand’s Trade Commissioner to the UK, says: “New Zealand has a history of pioneering on-farm technologies that improve productivity and reduce costs.
It’s encouraging to see that being recognised by innovative British farmers.
“There is much we can continue to learn from each other to improve farming practices even further.”
Visit the series homepage for more information