COUN­TRY SIDE EUROPE

Smart farm­ing in Europe hit by e-skills and ru­ral in­ter­net ac­cess

Rural & Marketing - - RURAL EUROPE -

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.

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