Farm & Food 4.0
International Congress Berlin
Farm & Food 4.0

20. February 2019

Discussion on the wrong track?

Farm & Food 2019 Session Review: Digital Agriculture

If you want to talk about the digital future in farming and food production, you have to look at the status quo: who does benefit and what do these benefits actually look like? Did past trends fulfill their promises? What do future challenges look like? Question like these made for the first panel at this year’s Farm & Food 4.0.

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The wrong track?

We need to talk about things like animal welfare, fertilizer, air pollution etc., but “we are on the wrong track”, says Michael Horsch, founder and CEO at HORSCH Maschinen. In his opening statement he mentioned the challenges directed at tomorrow’s agriculture. “We are getting older but not healthier.” Because we don’t eat healthy, says Horsch. High levels in the consumption of meat, dairy products, sugar are making us sick. Digitalisation can help putting people’s health into the centre of food production. The requirements to future agriculture will have to change, should humankind be healthier: Horsch is asking to reduce meat consumption and to increase the percentage of plant based food.

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Digital Agriculture – Hype vs. Reality

In a discussion panel Georg Mayerhofer, Farmer of the Year 2017, Maximilian von Löbbecke from 365FarmNet, spoke with Martin Kunisch from KTBL, Jonathan Bernwieser, founder and CEO of Start-up Agrando, and Michael Horsch on the benefits, problems and opportunities of digital agriculture.

Disillusionment seems to follow to the great hype of recent years seems. The simple answers that everyone expects do not exist yet. Especially in the US, digital applications from Silicon Valley are not being adopted as easily as expected by farmers. For von Löbbecke, the focus lies on increasing the efficiency of precision farming: Farmers should be able to spend 70 percent of their working hours on the field instead of in the office.

According to Dr. Kunisch digitalization should not only allow a more effective, cheaper farming, but also make it better and more sustainable in terms of quality, and this must be rewarded.

Farmer Meyerhofer asks for a better compatibility between the various farm management and agro software platforms.

For Bernwieser, improving agricultural efficiency also means that farmers make better use of their time and do not end up wasting time on inefficient paperwork. This includes underpinning the decisions with the right digital information and automating repetitive processes.

What is Precision Farming?

Horsch emphasized the fact, that digitalization in livestock farming has accomplished a lot. In his opinion, digitalization, meaning acquisition and saving of data helps documentation and transparency/traceability of agricultural production. In it he sees the future.

When asked where Germany stands in comparison to America with regard to digitalization, von Löbbecke answered that most companies, especially start-ups, currently do not generate any additional value. According to von Löbbecke, mass-market digital applications can solve a lot of problems: “If the farmer can create an application card for seeding, fertilizing or plant protection applications with four clicks in 20 seconds, then there is the added value.”

Interface and compatibility

At the end of the discussion one farmer from the audience summed up the problems: “The biggest problem in the digitization of agriculture are the interfaces. For example, we have 16 federal states and thus 16 different systems to submit the agricultural application. The rules that allow farmers to use plant protection products are still not digitized. The ISOBUS standard is now 20 years old, most machines are still sold without it, and the latest machines from the US already collect so much information per row that the ISOBUS cannot process them. ”

One counselor felt that public debate was overtaking farmers on the left. Some of their agricultural customers would not have a computer at all, just pen and paper. / dbv

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