In a Twitter survey carried out for rural insurers NFU Mutual, almost half (46.2%) of respondents said lack of knowledge was holding them back from investing in agri-tech on their farms. Lack of access to finance was the second highest reason limiting respondents (29.8%), followed by uncertainty about the future (17.1%) and supply chain difficulties (6.8%).
Conducted to accompany the leading rural insurer’s 2022 Agri-tech Report published yesterday, the survey also revealed that despite this hesitancy almost half of farmers responding would consider using autonomous agricultural vehicles on their farm, while 13.9% said they were planning to invest in agri-tech this year.
“Technology is set to revolutionise farming, increase productivity and help move UK agriculture towards its goal of being carbon neutral by 2040,” said farm insurance specialist with the Mutual, Charlie York.
“While many farmers are open to using technology, lack of understanding of new technologies and the investment they entail, means they are hesitating to take the plunge. Understandably, there’s a real fear amongst farmers that they could make the wrong tech-choice for their farm and end up with an expensive system that becomes outdated quickly.”
York said that to make the right investment, farmers needed to work closely with system suppliers, leading agricultural colleges, and other farmers to make sure they made the best decisions for their business:
“Holding back runs the risk of falling behind as global competition increases and UK farming support changes,” he warned.
Agri-tech pioneer and Herefordshire farmer, Ali Capper, highlighted the environmental benefits of adopting innovation:
“We must all have the climate change agenda at the heart of what we do and the decisions we make.
“The good news is that many agri-tech innovations will help us to be kinder to the farmed environment as well as more efficient and profitable. To achieve long-term sustainability and reduce fossil fuel use, at Stocks Farm we have adopted a whole-of-farm approach to growing, pest control, and picking automation.”
The Agri-tech Report, which can be downloaded from the Mutual’s website, provides insight, expert views and case studies on everything from poultry house automation, vertical farming and robotic tractors to help farmers explore opportunities for the future.
It advises those considering investing in new agri-tech to review the farm’s long-term strategy and then identify how technology and the use of detailed data could help achieve goals.
Investigating technology systems which integrate not only with the farm’s activities but also with the wider supply chain is also advised - as is keeping up to date with developments and management skills. The report also encourages farmers to adopt a co-operative approach to achieve the economies of scale to justify and maximise returns on investment in new tech.