Covid-19 has accelerated technology usage across the farming community – with over 70% of farmers in favour of buying and selling online post-Covid, according to the latest report from Ifac.

The increasing role of technology in farming is evident, according to an annual Farm Report conducted by the professional services firm.

Over 70% of farmers say they want online buying and selling in the marts to continue post-pandemic, Ifac’s Irish Farm Report 2021, titled Growing Your Future, says. 

With 1,700 farmers across the country participating in the survey, it has revealed the true impact of Covid-19 on the farming community, from the accelerated adoption of technology on the farm to the rise in social isolation and loss of community engagement. 

In terms of respondents, 91% of respondents are male, 43% are aged 51-65 and 37% are aged 36-50. The sector with the strongest representation is beef, followed by dairy.

Ifac findings

Seven out of eight (86%) farmers say broadband is now essential, making the rollout of rural broadband an urgent requirement across the country for business tasks including banking, the new report says.

Meanwhile, one in two (52%) farmers use herd and breeding software on their farms.

When it comes to farmer wellbeing, three in four (75%) say they will take the Covid-19 vaccine – with 19% unsure and 6% not planning to take a vaccine.

Of note, 31% of farmers risk burnout by not taking a holiday (for at least a week) in the last three years or more. Also, 75% say Covid-19 has negatively impacted their social life, and 42% say they don’t know who to call for support. 

The Ifac survey also highlights the opportunities for farmers in relation to their preparation for the future.

For example, for the third year in a row, the survey results indicate that farmers of all ages are continuing to put off succession planning; less than a quarter (24%) have identified a future successor, with almost one in three (31%) saying their farm business is not viable enough. 

Furthermore, 40% don’t have a will in place.

81% say they will still be farming in five years, while 12% don’t know.

Budgets and employment

Additionally, 58% don’t complete any budgets or cash flows; of those who employ non-family farm labour, only 21% have written contracts of employment in place and only 17% have an employee handbook.

As an employer it was noted that over 20% say it’s hard to find people with the right skills.

Worryingly, less than a quarter (24%) know how much they need to have in their pension to provide a €200 per week income from the age of 65, the professional services firm notes.

Commenting on the report results, John Donoghue, chief executive of ifac said:

“Like many industries, the farming community have had to adjust to the challenges and changes – and our annual Farm Report shows just how Irish farmers have been affected.

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

“Despite almost a third of Irish farmers saying they want to remain involved in the farm after retirement, for the third year in a row our survey shows that farmers are slow to act in relation to succession planning – something necessary to ensure the long-term sustainability of rural Ireland.

“However, there is also evidence of positivity and resilience in Irish farming with 81% of survey respondents saying they will still be farming in three years.”