Half of Irish farmers do not feel confident using technology - report

The absence of high-quality rural broadband in Ireland is holding back farming
The absence of high-quality rural broadband in Ireland is holding back farming
Claire Fox

Claire Fox

Half of Irish farmers said they do not feel confident using technology in general, according to an IFA and Farm Business Skillnet report.

The Digital Agriculture Technology Adoption and Attitudes study found that while 84pc of farmers use a smartphone, the majority said awareness of agri technology is low.

The study showed that three quarters of Irish farmers believe the dairy sector is leading the way in usage of agri tech, while one third highlighted the tillage sector.

55pc of those surveyed identified lack of good quality broadband as the main barrier to using technology on farms, this was followed by the cost of both the initial investment and support and maintenance costs associated with technology.

Farm discussion groups and agriculture related media were described as having a strong influence on farmers’ adoption of agri technology.

Those who used technology said the main reason they used it on farm was for time saving benefits, reduction in admin, increased livestock knowledge and wider access to data to support decision making.

Tillage farmers were conscious of the impact on reducing costs and usage and acknowledged improved yields and confidence and knowing more about their crops through tech.

Speaking at the launch IFA President, Joe Healy said, “Farmers and growers are the original innovators and inventors, even if they do not always realise it. In recent times, like almost every sector, the pace of change driven predominantly by technological advances, has been nothing short of revolutionary,” he said.

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“While many farmers are exploiting new technologies to their full advantage, barriers do exist for the sector as whole, which must be overcome. Access to broadband is one of the major barriers experienced by farmers. The speedy implementation of the National Broadband Plan is critical for rural Ireland”.

“Broadband is an essential tool for the business of farming, accessing health and education, bridging the digital divide and the development of vibrant communities. Farm families and rural businesses require access to a fibre broadband service that makes their lives better and lowers the cost of doing business”.

IFA, Skillnet and Vodafone Ireland are coming together to launch a pilot programme to encourage farmers to use agri technology. It aims to provide a technological solution that will give farmers greater insight into the soil on their farms.

Vodafone Ireland CEO Anne O’Leary said the project highlights how soon the “internet of things” will become as important to farmers as a “pitchfork or tractor”.

“Along with our partners Remote Signals, Vodafone is delighted to be in a position to provide the technology to trial this project. We know how important it is for farmers to have immediate access to information in order to make business decisions,” said Ms O’Leary.

“Innovation in the agricultural industry is something we strongly support and we look forward to working with the IFA and our partners to make Ireland an ag-tech world leader”.

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