Agriculture Technology

Modern farms and agricultural operations work far differently than those a few decades ago, primarily because of advancements in technology, including sensors, devices, machines, and information technology. Today’s agriculture routinely uses sophisticated technologies such as robots, temperature and moisture sensors, aerial images, and GPS technology. These advanced devices and precision agriculture and robotic systems allow businesses to be more profitable, efficient, safer, and more environmentally friendly.

IMPORTANCE OF AGRICULTURAL TECHNOLOGY

Farmers no longer have to apply water, fertilizers, and pesticides uniformly across entire fields. Instead, they can use the minimum quantities required and target very specific areas, or even treat individual plants differently. Benefits include:

  • Higher crop productivity
  • Decreased  use of water, fertilizer, and pesticides, which in turn keeps food prices down
  • Reduced impact on natural ecosystems
  • Less runoff of chemicals into rivers and groundwater
  • Increased worker safety

In addition, robotic technologies enable more reliable monitoring and management of natural resources, such as air and water quality. It also gives producers greater control over plant and animal production, processing, distribution, and storage, which results in:

  • Greater efficiencies and lower prices
  • Safer growing conditions and safer foods
  • Reduced environmental and ecological impact

NIFA’S IMPACT

NIFA advances agricultural technology and ensures that the nation’s agricultural industries are able to utilize it by supporting:

  • Basic research and development in physical sciences, engineering, and computer sciences
  • Development of agricultural devices, sensors, and systems
  • Applied research that assesses how to employ technologies economically and with minimal disruption to existing practices
  • Assistance and instruction to farmers on how to use new technologies

Brexit: Farmers could be paid to protect the environment

Farmers in Wales would be offered money to carry out work which protects and enhances the environment, under new post-Brexit farming proposals.

Ministers had proposed two grant schemes to replace EU funding, but the latest proposal rolls them into one.

Welsh farmers receive subsidies worth about £300m a year from the EU, making up 80% of their income on average.

However, it is not known how much money will be available to support agriculture after the UK leaves the EU.

The Welsh Government is asking people’s views on its new plans after an earlier consultation attracted a record-breaking number of responses.

The Sustainable Farming Scheme will pay for work to cut greenhouse gas emissions, create habitats for wildlife and improve water quality.

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Farms will be visited by an adviser who will draw up a contract based on the environmental benefits they agree the farmer is, or could be delivering.

They will be rewarded for new environmental work – like planting new woodlands – but also for maintaining and enhancing what is already there.

Farmers will also be able to access a range of business support, such as help with skills development or loans for new equipment.

Lesley Griffiths
Image captionEnvironment and rural affairs minister Lesley Griffiths says the scheme will help pay farmers while protecting the environment

The scheme will help address challenges in sustainable food production, responding to climate change and increasing biodiversity, according to minister for the environment and rural affairs Lesley Griffiths.

“We believe future farm support should reflect this and reward farmers who take action to meet these challenges,” she explained.

Ms Griffiths had initially hoped the new funding scheme would be phased in from 2021.

That aim has been dropped due to ongoing uncertainty around Brexit – which Ms Griffiths described as “incredibly frustrating” – but a multi-year transition is still promised.

Dairy farmer Abi Reader
Image captionDairy farmer Abi Reader said uncertainty around Brexit made it difficult to plan for the future

Dairy farmer Abi Reader from Wenvoe, Vale of Glamorgan, said it was “complicated to plan when we don’t know what is happening with Brexit”.

She said the subsidy was a “safety net” that helped her business to remain viable.

“We have high costs of production here because of things like our welfare standards, our environmental standards – which are world leading – and we need that little bit of protection to make sure that we can continue trading,” she told BBC Radio Wales.

Farmers have until 30 October to respond to the latest consultation, and have been offered the chance to “co-design” the final proposals in the autumn.

More than 12,000 responses were received the last time views were sought on farming after Brexit – a record for the rural affairs department.

Lake Mymbyr, Snowdonia, Wales, with pink flowers in the foreground
Image captionReversing a decline in biodiversity is one of the three challenges the Welsh Government says it is trying to address

The Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) warned that removing direct support payments based on how much land is farmed could see Welsh farmers disadvantaged compared with their counterparts in the EU.

“This concern would also relate to competition with farmers in Scotland and Northern Ireland if those countries retain some form of direct support,” said Glyn Roberts, FUW president.

Plaid Cymru’s rural affairs spokesman Llyr Gruffydd said the Welsh Government had been “stung into a change in tone” after a “hostile reaction” to its earlier consultation.