Digital technologies for vegetable production are available, but are seldom used at present. What factors inhibit or promote their use? A survey of experts conducted by Agroscope provides answers.
Digital technologies can reduce physical workload in agriculture and contribute to the targeted, needs-based use of resources and auxiliary substances. Although these technologies have been on the market for over 20 years now, their use in agriculture is still relatively uncommon.
A survey of experts was therefore conducted to determine what factors encouraged or inhibited the use of digital technologies, and what developments are to be expected. Thirty-four experts specialising in the fields of digital technologies and outdoor vegetable production were interviewed.
Great potential with irrigation and weed control
The survey showed that autonomous machines and robots are considered to be valuable technologies of the future. The experts ascribe particular potential for development to irrigation and weeding technologies. According to the expert panel, ten years from now, over 50% of Swiss vegetable farms will be using sensors for irrigation and weeding (as of 2018, less than 15% of Swiss outdoor vegetable farms were doing so). Drones,however, are thought to be of negligible importance in vegetable production.
Saving of resources, but high purchase costs
A driving factor for the use of digital technologies is the saving of resources (fertilisers, pesticides, etc.), whilst purchase costs represent a major impediment. Furthermore, digital technologies are also perceived as insufficiently mature or reliable.
Training, practical relevance and financial support
Possible approaches to promoting the use of digital technologies in vegetable production are therefore targeted training courses, greater practical relevance, the building of trust in the technologies, and financial support for overcoming cost barriers.
As regards infrastructural measures to encourage adoption, 75% of the experts surveyed favour extending signal coverage, whilst the remaining 25% either view the infrastructure as sufficient, or see very little potential for improvement.
- Economic factors play an important role in the use of digital technologies in Swiss outdoor vegetable production. High purchase costs are considered to be a major impediment, which is why the demand for financial support is high.
- The experts surveyed also indentified practical relevance as a key concern in promoting the use of digital technologies.
- Targeted training courses and advisory services can help to achieve greater practical relevance.
- The surveyed experts expect major increases in the use of digital technologies over the next ten years. This knowledge is essential for tailoring training and advisory services to the needs of the sector.