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An article by Agroscope

How Digitised are Swiss Plant Production Farms?

Digital technologies are fixed features of modern agriculture – but to what extent are they already being used in Switzerland? A survey conducted by Agroscope provides answers to this question.

Digital technologies reduce the physical workload of farming and contribute to sustainable field management. They also enable optimised management decisions based on plant- or soil-related data. Use in farming practice is the foundation for this.  

Use in Practice

Based on representative survey results, the use, inter alia, of advanced driver-assistance systems and activities in which electronic measurement systems such as nitrogen sensors are used on the machinery, was investigated in the following farming sectors: arable crops, fodder crops, vegetables, grapes, fruits and strawberries. The survey results were linked with farm structural data in order to identify the farm and farmers’ characteristics associated with adoption of the technology.

Advanced driver-assistance systems more common than measurement systems

The results clearly show that advanced driver assistance systems (DAS) are more common than electronic measurement systems on the machinery. The cruise control is the most commonly used DAS, with rear-view cameras for arable crops being used with similar frequency. Precision seeding and measurement of the moisture content of the harvested product are the most common uses of measurement systems across all agricultural enterprises, but prevalence is comparatively low. Hence, the technologies are used primarily to reduce physical workload, and less to support harvest or management decisions. In general, digital technologies were used more frequently in vegetables and arable crops than in the other plant-production sectors. Besides the enterprise, farm size and location are important factors with respect to use of the technology. Compared to their use on farms located in the valley and farms of between 10 and 20 hectares, digital technologies are used on mountain farms and small farms (<3ha) less often, whilst their use increases in farms of over 20 hectares. In order to enable farms of all sizes to derive benefit from digital technologies, solutions for small, diversified farms should be found, and personal motivations that influence the adoption decision should be identified.

Conclusions

  • Driver assistance systems (DAS) are more common than networked, sensor-based technologies for supporting management decisions.
  • Vegetable farming tops the list in terms of use of digital technologies.
  • Above-average-sized farms and farms located in the valley use digital technologies more frequently than small farms or mountain farms.

Scientific article

How Digitised are Swiss Plant Production Farms?

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