Farmers should play a leading role in research and innovation to ensure a viable EU agriculture sector for the future

Copa and Cogeca underlined the key role of research and innovation in a viable EU agriculture sector and the need for farmers and agri-cooperatives to play a key role in the process right from the start at a major Conference this week.

The Conference, organised by the EU Commission, brought together experts from across the EU to debate the new strategy for research and innovation and to outline key concerns.

Speaking at the event, Copa Vice President Maira Dzelzkaleja said “This strategy comes at the right time as innovative solutions for agriculture sector to adapt and mitigate to climate change are top of the EU agenda. A smarter and sustainable EU agriculture sector for viable and competitive rural areas are key. Research and innovation are crucial tools to achieve this. Innovation contributes to a competitive, efficient EU agriculture sector, helping farmers to cut production costs and produce more with less. And it has to be driven by farmers in order to be able to respond to their needs and they have to be involved in the research processes from an early stage. This is crucial for the future of rural areas. Farmers also generate innovative solutions themselves that often go unnoticed by public. There is a huge amount of hidden knowledge that needs to be revealed and efficiently used and more should be done here”.

“We believe that the Strategy covers a whole range of research topics that will be relevant up to 2018 and beyond. The challenges of ensuring food security, ending hunger and malnutrition, helping the environment and combatting climate change as well as boosting growth and jobs in rural territories are all crucial in Europe and worldwide. Precision farming, robots and drones are becoming the words of the day, to ensure a successful agriculture industry tomorrow. They are the reality right now for a limited number of farmers but we need to better understand this new technology, make it more accessible to farmers and cooperatives, share knowledge and step up research so that we can use them to meet the upcoming challenge of feeding a growing population with limited resources. We need to be in the driving seat of this debate”, she added.

“We consider the Multi-Actor approach, followed within the Horizon 2020 framework, a very promising concept. The current challenge is now how to best and most efficiently implement it and make it work. The structure of the multi-actors approach needs to be adjusted in order to further improve its functioning and delivery. Farmers are not only end-users but they are main partners for a successful implementation of the strategy” she concluded.

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