Science Foundation Ireland looks at the future of farming ahead of this year’s National Ploughing Championship –
2ndSeptember – This year marks the 85th year of the National Ploughing Championship. Following last year’s hugely successful exhibition, the Science Foundation Ireland tent will return – featuring more shows, demonstration and exhibitions.
Ahead of the big event #ScienceRisingis featuring all things agriculturalfor the month of September.
Speaking on agricultural research in Ireland Prof Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government said: “Since 2000 Science Foundation Ireland has invested over €41 million in agricultural research across 161 awards. This month the #ScienceRising campaign is showcasing some of the excellent and impactful research taking place. Experts will be providing exciting insights into the smart farms of the future.”
According to a UN report on population growth, the current estimation of 7 billion global citizens is set to rise to 9.6 billion by 2050. This will require, by current standards, an increase in food production of 70%. With 40% of the worlds land mass already dedicated to agriculture this increase is currently unmanageable. Science Foundation Ireland has spoken to some of the researchers working on precision agriculture or smart farming and asked how changes to farming techniques will help to make current farmland more productive.
Prof Willie Donnelly, President of Waterford Institute of Technology and Principle Investigator at the SFI funded CONNECT Research Centre, explains what Smart Farming is:
“Smart Farming is increasing quality and quantity of agricultural production using sensing technology. The aim is to make farms more ‘intelligent’ and more connected through so-called ‘precision agriculture’,also known as ‘smart farming’. The focus in the future will be on technology which supportsreal time decision makingsystems that can provide the right solution at the right time without the need for human intervention. This willliberate farmers to apply theirexpertise to high value activities.”
Professor Donnelly identifies themain drivers behind the changing nature of farming:
“One is the expected growth in global population, creating a demand for foods that are high in nutrition and can be delivered in peak condition to the consumer. Also targeted food production, if we were to develop more efficient systems to ensure that food waste become a thing of the past then we could feed the additional growth in the world population by using a similar level of land that we have today. Secondly, there is an increasing need for environmental sustainability;farmers are finding that they are now required to measure the environmental impact of their food production environment.”
What does the farm of the future look like?Dr Laurence Shalloo, Senior Research Officer at Teagasc and SFI Investigator Programme awardee shares his thoughts:
“Future farms will have a greater focus on technologies that increase efficiency and sustainability of their business. Farms will use different technologies to manage grassland andanimals, and the interaction between the two. There will be different pieces of farm machinery communicating directly with different stakeholders (e.g. suppliers, customers). All of this data will be integrated across various platforms and data analytics will be used to provide real time solutions to the farmer.”
Prof Willie Donnelly highlights what farmers should do now to “futureproof” their farms:“The first phase of futureproofing is to ensure that precision farming technology is applied to those areas of real value to the farmer. Farmers should focus on the introduction of technology which moves away from producing data and moves towards providing an intelligence or decision support. Partners need to form alliances with processors and suppliers to develop, implement and share information, ensuring that farmers and suppliers/processors are focused on collaborative market development.”
Concluding Professor Ferguson said: “We are delighted to once again be participating in the National Ploughing Championships. Along with the 12 world-leading Science Foundation Ireland Research Centres, we will be hosting many intriguing shows and exhibitions on agriculture and food science. All visitors to this year’s Ploughing are invited and welcome to visit the Science Foundation Irelandtent and participate in some informative science fun.”