Innovation is a fundamental tool for improving the productivity, efficiency and socioeconomic impact of agriculture and delivering environmental protection in the European agri-food sector. In addition, in my opinion, it is one of the main instruments for overcoming the challenges facing agri-food systems.
Today’s growing demand for food has, in innovation and research, a powerful means to not only obtain more and better food, but to do so in a more sustainable way. Looking at crops from ground level, there are things that the eye cannot see.
Now, the farmers can manage their crop production all year round more efficiently, using images from the air. These allow them to analyse water stress, identify threats, optimise their use of fertilisers and pesticides and estimate likely crop yields.
“Innovation is a fundamental tool for improving the productivity, efficiency and socioeconomic impact of agriculture and delivering environmental protection in the European agri-food sector”
This is all made possible by technology on aircraft equipped with specialised camera systems that capture images at specific wavelengths of light. This is making innovation, research and digital technologies indispensable in enhancing the livelihoods of farmers, improving food security and quality of nutrition, all while building resilience to climate change in each territory and region.
It is also important to highlight the value of digital technologies for young farmers. In particular, their ability to offer predictions of animal diseases and to provide vital information on the market. These technologies also, of course, provide access to communication, which allows farmers to live in remote rural areas while remaining connected to the rest of the outside world.
Another issue is data for statistical innovation and the use of artificial intelligence, among other tools, to provide new data sources that help measure, for example, loss of food or land degradation.
To this end, the FAO’s (Food and Agriculture Organization) geospatial platform “Hand-In-Hand” provides access to a compendium of thousands of statistical data from the FAO itself and its partners in food security, crops, soil, water, climate, fishing, livestock or forestry. Among other uses, this platform provides essential information for monitoring agricultural systems that are at risk as a result of pressure from people on the land and water, or to analyse climate trends.
Satellite remote sensing and precision agriculture, along with hydrological forecasting platforms, offer effective responses to these challenges. These technological advances, highlighted in this article, represent a great opportunity for agriculture and European animal husbandry. To this end, both the rules, resources and European institutions should be sufficiently coordinated and aligned.
A relevant consideration is the role that the findings of scientific reports - on the issues that need investigation - should play in political decisions. For me it is essential that prior scientific endorsement be assessed and taken into account in determining the subsequent political position, as opposed to opinions based on other, sometimes less-concrete considerations.
“The newly reformed CAP, together with the European Green Deal, must be aligned and allow innovation and new technologies to help us achieve new, more sustainable agriculture and livestock farming in Europe”
If we truly value science, coupling it with innovation and research of the right kind will surely allow us to make progress in the agriculture that Europe needs for the future. If not, I fear that Europe may “miss the boat”, and not be at the forefront of what all these tools can offer us to address the new challenges and policy commitments set out in the European Green Deal.
The newly reformed CAP, together with the European Green Deal, must be aligned and allow innovation and new technologies to help us achieve new, more sustainable agriculture and livestock farming in Europe.
This way, we can work to combat climate change while promoting greater competitiveness and productivity in our European agri-food system.