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Many farmers don’t see value in digital technologies

Peter Griffin, Editor. 06 September 2022, 1:48 pm

Our primary sector is responsible for over $50 billion in export earnings each year and is under pressure to become more sustainable as consumer preferences change.

But when it comes to using digital technologies on the farm to become more efficient producers, 41% of growers and farmers don’t see much value in using digital technologies to run their businesses.

That’s according to Agritech NZ’s latest report, which draws on a Research First survey of over 1,000 growers and farmers from across the agricultural sector, spanning dairy, horticultural and the arable sector.

“This is a high proportion, though not unexpected considering knowledge levels are low, and the value of data sharing is still to be unlocked,” says Agritech NZ’s chief executive Brendan O’Connell.

When it came to where growers and farmers were already using digital technology, it was mostly being applied in the office-related tasks associated with running a farm such as accounting and payroll, with less adoption of tools specifically for areas like running water and irrigation management, plant and crop management and effluent management.

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Source: Agritech NZ

Those categories are considered vital to reducing the environmental footprint and emissions profile of New Zealand’s primary sector. But it seems a lack of confidence using the technology and awareness of what it can do to improve farm efficiency, is holding back adoption.

“Proudly traditionalist farmers and growers are reluctant to change what has worked for their land for many years,” explains O’Connell.

“They may accept technology in the office or will tap into the expertise of contractors for specific jobs, the key though is that someone else is doing it.”

The survey also reveals the lingering frustration with poor-quality internet access in many rural areas, which could also be a barrier to adoption of digital technologies.

Over half of growers and farmers (56%) rated their internet service as poor or average (ranging from 41% in Gisborne to 70% in Southland) and 60% rated their mobile coverage as poor or average (ranging from 48% in Auckland and the Bay of Plenty to 68% in Manawatu-Wanganui and the West Coast).

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Source: Agritech NZ

“Improving internet coverage is critical to ensuring accessibility for everyone,” the report points out.

“It is also of value for technology suppliers to recognise a potential roadblock and consider technology design that features offline services or other solutions that can work within the limitations of unreliable internet connectivity.”

Over three-quarters, (77%) of survey respondents, were happy to share data about their farming operations where it provided direct benefits to them to do so, while 64% indicated they had confidence in the custodians of their data.

“This is a seemingly positive result but is balanced by data that shows only half of farmers and growers are data sharing,” says O’Connell.

The biggest barriers to data sharing revealed by the survey included that farmers and growers did not believe their data would have value to anyone else.

Agritech NZ aims to use future surveys to track the adoption of digital technologies and to identify pain points that hold it back.


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