COUNTRY SIDE EUROPE
Smart farming in Europe hit by e-skills and rural internet access
The digitisation of agriculture could help Europe address food security and environmental issues at the same time. But realising this vision will require e-skills, proper broadband infrastructure and big data management, experts suggests.
The discussion on the post-2020 Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) has already begun and it seems digital farming will take centre stage in the new framework.
Rising pressure to increase yields, combined with the need to protect the environment, has led farmers to explore ‘innovative’ practices in order to produce more with less input.
Policymakers and farmer organisations in Europe have acknowledged the “digital divide” between rural and urban areas of the continent.
From the 300 million EU citizens living in rural areas, only 25 percent are covered by fast or ultra-fast broadband, compared to around 70 percent coverage in urban areas. The EU objective is to ensure that every company and household has broadband access at a speed of at least 30mbps by 2020.
In Europe, the number of holdings has declined steadily, linked to increasing urbanisation and the harsh economic and social conditions with which farmers are faced. The European Commission now wants to motivate young people to return to the farm and contribute to a wider rural transformation, with their enhanced e-skills.
But the European farming sector is still faced with a number of challenges before it can enter the digital era. These range from the cost of technological equipment and rural areas.