Farming 4.0: What are the Challenges? – By Dr John Hyland

The digitalisation of agriculture represents an opportunity to use technologies and data to improve knowledge generation and farmer decision making. However, there are multiple challenges and concerns which must be overcome if farmers are to fully embrace digital technologies. Barriers to adoption of digital tools include:

  • Trust and confidence in the provider;
  • Quality and relevance of digital data;
  • Commercialisation of digital data;
  • The ownership and control of digital data;
  • The sheer pace and scale of data generation from smart devices and sensors;
  • Potential spatial and temporal data gaps;
  • Aligning complex farm production parameters with value and relevance to farm decision making;
  • A digital divide in the gap that exists in usage and access to digital infrastructure and services;
  • Insufficient skills and competences;
  • Older farmers who are less incentivised to adopt digital tool and who are less exposed to digitalisation.

Advisors play an important role in collecting, analysing and interpreting data. However, the potential of digitalisation is unlikely to be realised at the European level unless advisors are mobilised to take ownership of digital tools and advocate them to farmers and other advisors. By using digital technologies advisors are able to make better informed agronomic recommendations to assist farmer decision making. The role of agricultural advisors in the adoption of digital technologies is therefore crucial. Consequently it is vital that efforts are made to enable advisors to adopt digital tools in order to catalyse a digital transformation across both the advisory and farming community.

Digital Advisory Tools and Services (DATS) are particularly useful with regards to supporting advisory services, training, and knowledge exchange. For example digitalisation enables advisors to better use their time and resources by using webinars, decision support tools, benchmarking platforms etc. DATS and digital farm management tools overlap, they share interfaces for different analytical tools demonstrating advantages of big data systems and multiple users. DATS thereby allow data to be collected, analysed and shared between farmers and their advisors, and/or between farmers and other farmers.

Currently there is a lack of identified tools to support digital innovation within agricultural advisory services. FAIRshare will overcome this particularly significant barrier by providing an inventory of existing DATs and decision support services across the EU and create comprehensive online catalogue of at least 200 that can be accessed and used. Hence, agricultural advisors will be enabled and empowered to adopt digital tools pertaining to specific issues they face.