Brussels update

By Tom Murphy
Professional Contractors Association of Ireland (PAC)
I recently attended the CEMA Farming 4.0 event in Brussels.
CEMA represents the farm-machinery manufacturing industry and
the programme addressed the following:
What environmental benefits of digital and precision farming can we expect in arable and livestock farming in Europe?
What is the market outlook for Europe and what are major investment trends in agricultural technology innovations?
What are the key barriers holding back the uptake of digital and precision farming?
What tangible benefits do digital and precision-farming technologies bring the user?

My objective was to ensure that a voice for Irish agricultural contractors was heard in all the right places, and I did just that. I had to admire the line-up of top industry experts including: John Deere, Claas, New Holland, AGCO, EU DG Connect, EU Broadband Competence Offices, Nokia, Rabobank and many others. Delegates included senior executives from the machinery, farming and ancillary sectors along with EU officials. I had a long chat with Heinz Pottinger, who was glad to hear that PAC Ireland was doing well.
There was discussion of particular interest, around the requirement for 5G broadband in order to fully embrace smart-farming technologies. However, it became apparent that there was a digital divide throughout Europe between urban and rural availability. The EU wants all Member States to have high speed coverage by 2020, however, at present, only 45 per cent of rural Europe has this against 87 per cent of urban areas. It is clear that, until EU Member States invest in rural broadband, digital farming is going nowhere fast. In Ireland, we have a long haul to achieve rural high speed coverage and are in danger of being left behind the rest of Europe in the uptake of smart farming technologies, which will ultimately make our farmers less competitive.
President of CEMA, Richard Markwell, said farmers, who are using digital technologies, have seen productivity gains of up to 20 per cent, this is not science fiction, it is science fact, so we need to get our skates on now.
See to book for the PAC Ireland Conference, Smart Farming – Contractors and Farmers Working Together.