Report: 80pc of Irish farmers turn to tech to enhance operations

14 Apr 2021

Maighréad Barron on her farm in Co Waterford. Image: Ifac

The pandemic has accelerated agritech developments, while more than 70pc of farmers are in favour of buying and selling online post-Covid.

While technology in the farming community has been steadily increasing in recent years, the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated its use across the sector.

According to the 2021 Ifac Irish Farm Report, 80pc of farmers now use some form of agritech to enhance their operations, with tools ranging from herd management tech to robotic scrapers.

Ifac is Ireland’s farming, food and agribusiness professional services firm. For its report, it surveyed more than 1,700 farmers across the country about the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, the adoption of technology and their outlook for the future.

The report found that more than half of farmers surveyed use herd and breeding software on their farms, while more than 70pc of farmers surveyed want online mart selling to continue after the pandemic.

John Donoghue, chief executive of Ifac, said the report highlights how the community has had to adjust to the challenges and changes of the last year.

“The adoption of technology has accelerated with tech now playing an increasingly important role in farm management,” he said.

The embracing of technology from farmers comes alongside the growth of agritech start-ups and the creation of new solutions and tools for the sector.

Last year, 10 Irish agritech businesses secured prizes at the Innovation Arena Awards, including a trailer that can accommodate 16 round bales on a shorter chassis than other machines and a large poultry processor to gather data on chickens.

A number of Irish agritech start-ups have also received significant funding in the last year. This includes MagGrow, which raised €6m for its crop-spraying tech, and Micron Agritech, a TU Dublin spin-out that bagged €500,000 in seed funding for its rapid parasite testing kit.

The need for connectivity

While embracing agritech solutions is important for the sector, connectivity is critical, especially for farmers in rural locations. The report found that 86pc of farmers say broadband is now essential.

The need for high-speed broadband around the country has also been amplified due to the pandemic, with a significant number of people now working from home.

At the beginning of this year, the first premises were successfully connected to the new high-speed fibre-to-the-home network under the National Broadband Plan. And the start of April brought good news to the farming sector specifically, with the first farm connected.

Tom Canning, managing director Tom Canning Agricultural Consultants and owner of the farm in Co Cavan that made headlines, said being connected to a high-speed network is vital for the farming community.

“For the purpose of my farm consultancy business, I also need a reliable network connection so I can effectively operate business from a rural base and I am already seeing the benefits from this connection. From speaking with others in the farming community, the National Broadband Plan will benefit them hugely,” he said.

Jenny Darmody is the editor of Silicon Republic