Europe lagging behind in technological advances in agriculture
Published:  17 May, 2017

The agricultural industry heard how technology can help boost productivity at a conference last week. 

Held in Herefordshire on Friday 12 May, the increased use of robots and drones, driverless tractors, accurate application of pesticides and better rural broadband were among priorities discussed.

The conference was organised by Anthea McIntyre MEP, who discussed how developments in science and technology should help make farming and horticulture more ecologically friendly, as well as productive. However, she said that European agriculture was currently trailing other areas of the world, due to a lack of investment in translational research.

McIntyre, who is a Conservative MEP for the West Midlands and a member of the European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee, is the author of Technological Solutions for Sustainable Agriculture, which was approved by the European Parliament last year.

Many of the delegates present at the ‘Agri Tech’ conference at the Royal Hotel in Ross-on-Wye assisted her in drafting the report. During the meeting, their expertise was called upon again to suggest ways in which key findings could be promoted and advanced across the areas of precision farming, big data and informatics, soil, water and nutrient management, genetic diversity, precision breeding, plant protection products, research and funding priorities and scientific development and innovation.

“It was wonderful to collect evidence from so many field-leading experts,” she said.

“Too often, there is a lazy assumption that applying technology to make farming more efficient can only harm the environment. The truth is that smart application of scientific advances can mean more food and greener farming. The EU and member states, academia and industry, breeders, the agro-chemicals sector, farmers and food manufacturers – all must work together to ensure we have the best research and that we translate that research into practice – from lab to farm to fork.”

A range of ideas to boost agri-tech within the EU in the next two years were discussed – as well as when the UK leaves the Union in 2019. Thoughts and ideas will be gathered into a report and published later this year.

Caroline Healy, agriculture policy adviser in the European Parliament, commented: “People are currently working on the next Common Agricultural Policy – and the input and expertise of the UK and our MEPs is greatly valued. We have to continue working with these friendships and networks to push for progress over the next two years – and carry those relationships forward post-Brexit.”