Work needed to unlock farm benefits of drones, robots and data sharing

Data sharing between farmers has the potential to generate improved efficiency and productivity, while also contributing to a better use of resources, but only when data collection and sharing systems start to work properly.

That was the message issued by Copa-cogeca after their “big data for farmers and cooperatives” conference in Brussels.

“Big data, precision farming, drones, robots are all now part of the farming vocabulary and are a reality in many farms and cooperatives across Europe, promising to revamp the industry,” said Copa-cogeca secretary-general, Pekka Pesonen, before adding that “not enough” is currently known about the performance of information systems or the collection and sharing of data to deliver full-value benefits to farmers.

Maintaining that the use of big data could help farmers to step into the future of farming and achieve better targets, he highlighted several areas which were in need of urgent attention.

“What we are looking at today are issues like what type of data is increasingly being exchanged,” he said. “Are there possibilities to set up a software/database and to ensure interoperability for exchange purposes?

“Open data must also be accessible, which means publishing it on the web, social media, making it available in a machine-readable format and having a license that permits anyone to access, use and share it.

“As farmers, we also need to be sure that we can obtain a return by producing and exchanging data.”

The rewards for getting it right, however, could be considerable, he pointed out, quoting the impact of the use and sharing of only one type of precision technology in the US which had increased crop yields for users by 16% and cut water use by 50%.

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