02. September 2019
Frederik Langsenkamp on climate change, agriculture and robotics
“You always feel the need to justify yourself”
By Laura von Ketteler
The area surrounding Osnabück is characterised by small, medium-sized farms, often family-run. The Langsenkamp farm is one of them. In an interview with Farm & Food, Frederik Langsenkamp reports on everyday and major challenges on the farm and the concern that climate change and the resulting problems will be dumped on the farmer.
Farm & Food: For some time now, digitisation and mechanisation have been a present topic in agriculture. Where do you see the trends of the future?
Frederik Langsenkamp: I still see the trends in big data and the collection and analysis of data from which farmers can draw conclusions about their economies. The perception of satellite images and biomass data, for example, makes it possible to determine the precision of the sowing rate. Robotics will also play a major role in economic and, above all, ecological management. Robotics is simply superior to humans, does not have to sleep and is less prone to errors. The trend is moving away from holistic surface treatment towards sub-area-specific and single-area-specific cultivation. This creates an enormous savings potential for fertilizers and crop protection.
Hof Langsenkamp is a medium-sized family business. What is your opinion on the topic of digitization and innovation?
Since we are a relatively small farm, we lack the financial means to get intensively involved in technology. However, we are in close contact with the Osnabrück University of Applied Sciences. We organise workshops, where we mainly talk about low-cost processes. The goal is to install digital technology cost-effectively and efficiently.
On my farm, I work with everyday tools, such as the field record and also the pig feeding system is completely digitized and mechanized. Together with the university, we also installed a parallel driving system for simplified steering behaviour. One problem in all this is the faulty network coverage in the area, but I guess we’re not the only ones with this problem.
Are farmers in Germany prepared to embrace innovation?
Farmers are made aware of these issues through trade journals, trade fairs and other events, but they are cautious about them. The farmer often lacks the time or the power of habit to innovate. Let’s put it this way, the farmer has about 40 attempts in his life to cultivate his field, because he can only establish one fruit a year. At such a time span one holds on to traditional methods rather than try out new techniques. Small and medium-sized enterprises in particular are sceptical, in contrast to large enterprises, which have greater financial leeway.
In your opinion, what does an innovation have to entail in order to be attractive for the farmer?
The innovation must be practical for the farmer, easy to handle and quick to implement. Often the farmer cannot invest much time in such things because his daily business keeps him on his toes. It is also important that a certain result is foreseeable or visible. The farmer needs a certain security that the method has an added value and shows success and is economical and today of course particularly important ecologically.
What are your daily challenges on the farm?
We are a conventional farm and our main line of business is pig farming. We also farm 60 hectares of arable land with maize, wheat, triticale and rye, a large part of which is used as pig feed. Our biggest problem is to keep up with the structural change. We are feeling more and more pressure from requirements that have to be met and at the same time we have to produce in line with the market. This is not easy for a family that lives purely from its business. Agriculture is our daily bread. I see another problem in public opinion about modern agriculture. You always feel that you have to justify yourself for the way you do farming.
Keyword Climate Change
Local politics has jumped on the bandwagon of climate protection. In my opinion, active agriculture is climate protection. However, the problems are being dumped on the farmer. Many decisions are made over the heads of farmers without communicating with them. I strongly believe that farmers like to implement proposals that serve climate protection, but the way politics is trying to make them do that it is not conducive. Many regulations often weaken us economically as a small farm. We have a smallholder structure here that shapes the landscape and the cultural landscape. However, I see the problem in the fact that large farms will drive us out in the near future.