Digitalisation is playing an increasingly important role in agriculture. What knowledge is imparted in the Farm Manager course? An online survey shows where there is a need for expansion.
Training can help future farm managers learn to use digital technologies at an early stage. The aim of this study was therefore to examine the current status of digital technologies in agricultural training.
Nearly half lack digital training
In spring 2021, students on the Farm Manager course offered by various Swiss educational centres were asked whether there was a focus on digital technologies in their training (i.e. in their basic training or in the Farm Manager course). All in all, 47% of the survey participants stated that digital technologies were not covered in their agricultural training.
Where digital technologies were taught, videos, written documents and practical exercises were the most commonly used teaching materials. Textbooks, mentioned by just 23% of the students and 18% of the teachers, seem to be in use in isolated cases only.
Moderate hands-on preparation
To find out how practice-oriented the classes were, students and teachers were asked how well those attending the Farm Manager course were generally equipped for digitalisation. The students themselves felt that they were moderately well prepared to handle digital technologies. The teachers’ rating was similar. The reasons most frequently given for a less adequate preparation were that digital technologies were seldom or insufficiently dealt with in class, and that there was a lack of practical exercises, or that these exercises lacked applicability.
Computer skills, overview and training grounds lacking
Lack of computer skills was another important obstacle. Several students described how basic computer or IT skills were required on the Farm Manager course, but not imparted. A further need identified by the students was the provision of an overview of the available digital solutions, so as to afford value-neutral access.
The teachers’ responses paint a similar picture. A lack of practical training grounds (e.g. anonymised sample farm data), a lack of basic knowledge on the part of the students, and the lack of a general overview of what was offered were again cited as hurdles. Further points were the digital operation of the school, including course support, which could be improved, and the wish for a course focusing exclusively on digital technologies.
The majority of students with farms use digital tools
Over 60% of the students who already have a farm that they currently run or will run in future stated that their farm is moderately to strongly digitalised. Seventy per cent of the interviewed students with farms want to use digital technologies more in future.
- The interviewed students and teachers are in agreement that digital technologies are important nowadays, and will gain in importance in the future.
- Just under half of the participating students lack a digitalisation component in their agricultural training.
- Most of the survey participants with a farm of their own want to use digital technologies more in future. Accordingly, the Farm Manager course has great potential for imparting the necessary knowledge for this.
- The future farm managers would like specific courses on digital technologies, a better overview of the available technologies, and more practical relevance in general.