Digital technologies represent an opportunity for the modern management of farms. For this, already available technologies must also be utilised in practice. An Agroscope survey illustrates the status quo of technology use.
In the context of agricultural processes, digitisation encompasses the use of numerous new technologies such as sensors, electronic measuring devices and robots, but also information and communication technologies. The relevance of these technologies for agriculture in Switzerland exists if their use helps to achieve agricultural policy objectives and improve the competitiveness of the Swiss agricultural sector.
Practitioner survey on mechanisation and digitisation
Parts of a large-scale Agroscope study from 2018 on the state of mechanisation and digitisation in Swiss agriculture were evaluated in order to determine the status quo in Switzerland. Inter alia, farmers in the dairy-cattle, dairy-goat, suckler-cow, beef-cattle and meat-sheep sectors were surveyed regarding their use of sensors and measurement devices, electronic controls and data processing options on their farms.
Digital technologies are increasingly used in the dairy sector
The results show that digital technologies used in milking are more common than technologies for livestock monitoring, activity recording or other farm management areas. They also show that the extent of digitisation varies sharply between agricultural enterprises, with a higher level of adoption in the dairy cattle sector than in the other farm sectors. Already, 68% of dairy farmers have stated that they use at least one of the surveyed technologies, with just 6% of dairy farmers using a milking robot. Use of the latter is therefore fairly low by international standards. Financial aspects as well as user-friendliness and reduced physical workload are possible factors influencing the implementation of digital technologies. Whereas the easing of workload through the use of milking technology becomes quickly apparent, the use of data processing technologies requires more know-how before advantages are produced. At present, specialised farms make the most frequent use of digital technologies. Livestock husbandry system also influences the utilisation of digital technologies, so that farms with tied housing systems use technology less often that those with loose housing.
- The use of digital technologies varies between different enterprises of ruminant husbandry.
- Easy-to-use sensors and measuring devices built into the milking parlour are more commonly used than all other technologies.
- Farms with loose housing use digital tools more frequently than those with tied housing.