Anthea McIntyre MEP led the voices of welcome when a comprehensive report on the policy implications of precision farming was presented to the European Parliament’s Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee.
Miss McIntyre, Conservative MEP for the West Midlands, said technology was the key to sustainability in farming across the EU – and praised the groundbreaking work in her own region by Harper Adams University in Shropshire.
The committee was receiving a report , Precision Agriculture and the Future of Farming in Europe, from the parliament’s Science and Technology Option Assessment body (STOA). It identities four key applications and concerns: food security and safety, sustainability, social change and the need for new skills.
It highlights the diversity of agriculture throughout the EU, regarding particularly farm size, types of farming, farming practices, output and employment. European policy measures therefore should differentiate between member states, taking into account varying opportunities and concerns from one country to another, it suggests.
Miss McIntyre is herself a member of the parliament’s STOA panel and the author of a separate parliamentary report promoting the potential of technology to improve both the productivity and environmental impact of farming.
She told committee members there were huge benefits to be gained by advancing precision farming, for example by using lasers instead of chemicals to tackle weeds.
Precision agriculture did not always have to involve costly machinery, she said. Second-generation drones, for example, could perform important farming jobs quickly and on a large scale. Harvesting could be done by robots.
Praising Britain’s leading role on technological innovation, she said: “A leading agricultural university in my region has done a tremendous amount of work in this area. In 2011 Harper Adams University introduced a long-term traffic-control farming system – using precision technology to direct the movement of machinery and thus protect the soil.”
She stressed: “We should use EU research funds to create practical on-the-ground solutions, not just blue-sky thinking. We need to involve farmers in that research because they will use the technology.”