Selected as the UK’s representative on the European Innovation Partnership for Agricultural Productivity and Sustainability (EIP-AGRI) focus group on mainstreaming precision farming (PF), Toby Mottram recently helped progress a new interactive approach to innovation. Funded by the European Commission, the EIP-AGRI aims to streamline the process of acquiring funding and finding partners to help test a new idea or solve a problem.

By closing the gap between research, practice and forming partnerships  the EIP-AGRI aims to foster a competitive and sustainable agriculture and forestry sector that ‘achieves more from less’. Using the online EIP-AGRI Network, people can form Operational Groups comprising of different competencies, both practical and scientific, and, using aid from innovation support services, find funding for their specific idea or problem.

The aim of the project is to contribute to the European Union’s strategy ‘Europe 2020’ for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. Specifically the precision farming (PF) focus group aims to  provide answers and recommendations by doing an analysis on constraints and opportunities of the required data infrastructure for PF, and to list good practices.

Several important issues were raised regarding farmers utilising PF. The risk involved in investing in PF for farmers is often perceived as too great compared to the complexity and specific benefits to the farmer. By involving farmers in the development process of PF tools, clear benefits can be seen first hand. Training in the use of PF tools is essential for widespread use. A strong emphasis was placed on development of cost-benefit analysis of PF to ensure farmers are not put off by the fear of additional costs, complexities and new sources of technical problems.

If the farmer is to invest in PF tools they need to be smarter and integrated into the farm management system to support farmers in their decision-making. Funding is needed for the introduction and further development of technologies such as: electrical drives to facilitate precise electronic control of equipment in implements; Internet of Things to facilitate machine and processor communication; nanotechnology and biosensors; drones and autonomous platforms.

As modern farms are increasingly loaded with all kinds of sensors, data management, data storage, data sharing and interconnectivity strategies are urgently needed. Focus is strongly needed on standardising software development and data formats and moving towards the open data paradigm.

For more information and the results so far follow the links below.

Mainstreaming precision farming: http://ec.europa.eu/eip/agriculture/en/content/mainstreaming-precision-farming

About the EIP-AGRI: http://ec.europa.eu/eip/agriculture/en/content/EIPAGRIabout