Gráinne Dilleen and Dave Hearne
Waterford Institute of Technology and Walton Institute
DEMETER is a Horizon 2020 project which aims to facilitate and speed-up the deployment of interoperable, data-driven, smart farming solutions providing decision support and control systems for the agricultural sector that empower farmers to take better decisions. This will allow them to harness the full value of their own data and knowledge as well as those shared with others.
DEMETER follows a multi-actor approach (MAA) ensuring that newly developed technical solutions meet real life needs. Farmers are a key stakeholder group within the DEMETER ecosystem. Understanding their needs, interests and concerns regarding digital technologies is central to a positive outcome for the project. With this in mind, we created an online survey to share with farmers to better understand the barriers and drivers to Smart Farming Technology (SFT) adoption.
The research was conducted across November and December 2021 and top-line results were shared at The Farmer’s Voice webinar. In total, 484 responses were received. Farmers from 46 different countries completed the survey. 82% were male, while 17% were female (1% Other). The age of respondents was split as follows: age 18-24 (4%), 25-34 (20%), 35-44 (24%), 55-64 (24%) and 65+ (5%). 27% of farmers that responded had a farm size greater than 200 ha, 17% indicated a farm size of 20ha-49ha, 16% had a farm size of 50-99ha. This was followed by smaller farm sizes with 14% having less than 5ha, while 13% had 5-19ha. Finally, 11% had 100-199 ha.
The biggest drivers for farmers to adopt new technologies were highlighted as:
48% of farmers who responded are already using SFT on farm, with a further 37% indicating they will use SFT in the future while 15% doubt they will ever use the technology. As expected, farmers already using SFT have a much more positive attitude regarding the cost-benefit analysis of adoption than non-users.
The higher the farmer’s education level, the more likely they are to see positive benefits associated with SFT adoption compared to those with a lower level of education. Similarly, farmers with a larger-sized farm were more likely to believe that SFTs can help simplify their work and increase grass and crop yield compared to farmers with a smaller land mass.
The main barriers to adoption were revealed as:
Sustainability arose as a key issue for farmers. According to the results of the survey, a majority of farmers do not currently see clear environmental benefits associated with using SFT. However, they believe that such technologies can improve their environmental impact and help them to cope with climate change, indicating an opportunity for technology providers.
Looking at the differences by country, farmers in Norway, Ireland, and Greece generally see higher barriers to adoption. Serbian, Georgian, and German farmers have the most positive attitude towards SFT. Greek farmers are most concerned about the lack of educational support and training. Internet connectivity was a key barrier for farmers outside the EU. In addition, farmers involved in crop production have a lower perception of the barriers to adoption, while cattle farmers perceive more barriers to adoption.
DEMETER is preparing a report to share all the findings from the survey and recommendations for the future. This will be made available on the website and the DEMETER social media channels.
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Gráinne Dilleen is the DEMETER Communications Coordinator and a PhD Researcher at Waterford Institute of Technology.
Her research is focused on understanding the factors which influence farmers' intention to adopt smart technologies.
Dave Hearne is a Senior UX Designer/Developer at Walton Institute.
Within DEMETER he is responsible for driving the multi-actor approach, ensuring innovation is demand driven.