Will Smart Farming Gain a Foothold in Europe?

Farming is one of the oldest industries there is, but it’s not always one of tradition. Modern agriculture is often not the old-fashioned, traditional culture it’s portrayed as. It’s a high-tech business now, and it’s getting more tech-forward by the minute.

One of the most exciting trends in this industry is the rise of smart farming. Although relatively new, this practice is starting to take hold throughout Europe. In a few years, it may replace older ways of doing things entirely.

What Is Smart Farming?

Smart farming is the practice of gathering data throughout a farm and then using it to improve operations. It’s bringing cutting-edge technology like robots, internet-enabled sensors and satellites to agriculture. With this tech, farmers can find ways to produce more with fewer resources.

Smart farming comes hand-in-hand with a practice called precision agriculture. Precision agriculture, sometimes called agriculture 4.0, involves considering even the smallest variables in running a farm. By making tiny adjustments, farmers ensure they get the most out of every one of their processes.

There’s been a push for the EU to fund smart farming projects in the past few years. As the agricultural, environmental and economic benefits of the practice become more prevalent, they could strengthen this effort. 

Growing Agricultural Needs

Europe’s population keeps growing, but there’s a limited amount of land you can farm. By 2045, there could be 529 million people on the continent, according to EU projections. That’s a lot of mouths to feed, which may not be possible with traditional farming techniques.

Farmers need to feed more people using the same amount of farmland, which is precisely what smart farming does. Older methods end up producing a lot of waste, or at least inconsistent crop yields. Precision agriculture, on the other hand, ensures farmers get the most out of their natural resources.

With tools like satellite imagery, farmers can measure things like photosynthesis or soil quality. They can then use this information to adjust their process, ensuring better growth. 

Environmental Concerns

Farming needs to go beyond feeding more people with the same amount of resources. In light of growing environmental problems, farmers may need to do more with less. Most modern farms use a tremendous amount of water and land, making them unsustainable practices.

Smart farming is more environmentally friendly than traditional methods. With better measuring techniques, farmers can make sure they only use the resources they need. One of the most common examples of this is in smart irrigation.

Hi-tech irrigation systems can observe soil conditions to see if plants need water or not. Using this info, they only dispense water when necessary. As a result, farmers can grow their crops without wasting this precious resource.

Economic Considerations

Saving resources also saves money. Farmers, like any other business people, want to cut costs where possible to make the most of their work. Smart farming allows them to do so without sacrificing quality.

The same areas where precision agriculture helps the environment also save farmers money. Using less water helps them be more sustainable, but it also means their water bills aren’t as high. Finding ways to stay on budget and reduce operational costs are crucial.

Smart farming may represent a higher initial cost, but the long-term savings are considerable. If the environmental or agricultural benefits aren’t enough to encourage the trend’s growth, the cost-efficiency may be. It gives farmers and governments another incentive to pursue this kind of agriculture.

The State of the European Smart Farming Market

The European smart farming market is already showing promising signs of growth. Some experts predict that it will reach €6.6 billion by 2023, mostly because there’s a growing need for it. All of the advantages listed above are becoming more prevalent with each passing day.

Smart farming technology is also growing, making it a more viable option for farmers. There are Internet of Things (IoT) sensors for everything from measuring feed to tracking cattle on the market today. Other devices like drones and smart lights are on the rise as well.

These continuously-improving technologies and the growing need for more efficient methods will drive smart farming in Europe. In just a few years, the practice could take off and become the norm. It may not be long before most farming in Europe is smart.

Farming in the Future

It’s hard to deny the advantages of smart farming, especially as the challenges facing agriculture keep rising. Technology is shaping many industries to be more efficient and more eco-friendly, so why should farming be any different? The future is one of data and technology, even in a field as ancient as agriculture.

It’s almost a guarantee that smart farming is the future of agriculture. Most of the uncertainty is just when the shift towards these new methods will take place. Given the increased need and growing market, though, it looks like the future may not be that far off.

Megan Ray Nichols

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