Farmers should care most about “providing safe, healthy, abundant and affordable food”, according to a survey by Cargill, but are they seen as technologically savvy?
Half the people surveyed in the U.S., China, Mexico and Spain saw a farmer, primarily, as a “person who feeds the world”, according to Cargill’s press release. Just a quarter is chose “steward of the earth’s natural resources” – perhaps reflecting that one-third of contributors doubted the long-term sustainability of today’s agriculture. They want farmers to be sustainable though: “Sustainable” was the word that best described what participants wanted a farmer to be. Efficient was second. At the same time, the respondents that see farmers as the ones to feed the world, they also prefer their food come from smaller/specialty, local or organic farms, which can’t necessarily compete on cost. Interestingly, three-quarters of the survey respondents thought technologically advanced farming was a good thing. But that’s not exactly how they see farmers today. “Technologically savvy” was one of the terms least associated with farmers.
Making the transition
Dairy farms are becoming larger and this trend challenges the craftsmanship of dairy farmers to keep the cows healthy and productive. An increasing amount of technology and tools are coming to market that help dairy farmers to do just that and help them to get the best out of the animals. There are many opportunities for technology and data in the dairy industry. And we are just at the beginning, considering that agriculture is the least digitalized sector out there. “We believe that technology can help farmers make the transition to become more sustainable and more productive. And that most of the farmers in the survey see technologically advanced farming as a good thing is great”, explains Yasir Khokhar, CEO at Connecterra.
Insights, not more data
Dr Jeffrey Bewley, dairy housing and analytics specialist at Alltech earlier said in an interview that we don’t need to gather a lot of new data. “Indeed, the landscape of technology is changing and there are a lot of players getting involved in livestock technology. This not mean we have to gather a lot of new data, as the technology also entails us to look at existing (old) data in new ways. The challenge is to know what to do with the data we have and understand what the data tells us”, he said. At Connecterra we believe that it is about providing the farmer with insights, not more data. “To be able to increase food production to feed the growing world population in the decades to come, we need to make agriculture more efficient. The main driver in stepping up efficiency in livestock farming is animal health. Our unique IDA platform can do that, as it helps the farmer with actionable insights in fertility and animal health. In trials we have done with IDA we already noticed an increase of 20-30% in efficiency and a reduction of 50% in antibiotic use. In addition, we see that animal feed, animal health and breeding companies are increasingly interested in the performance data from their clients (farmers). This is why we have created IDA for enterprises to look at data from a full food value chain perspective”, Khokhar from Connecterra adds.
Potential is huge
The dairy industry is huge, considering that we have over 260 million dairy cows in the world. The number of dairy cows in the EU-28 in 2018 stood at 22.9 million. “Considering that only 20% of the top dairy farmers use some kind of technology to track animal health, the potential to further implement technology is huge. I hope that the respondents from the Cargill survey and the general public as a whole will change their mind and see “Technologically savvy” as one of the terms that are most associated with farmers in the coming years”, Khokhar concludes.