Innovative farmers have higher incomes and live in the south east

Ireland’s most innovative farmers live in the south east, according to a recent study by UCD and Bank of Ireland on Innovation in the Agrifood Sector.

Launched yesterday in UCD, the report states that a large proportion of of innovative performance by regions can be attributed to the distribution of farm systems across Ireland. The low innovative performance of the west region, it says, can be explained that over 90% of farms in this region are cattle or sheep farmers, while the south east region has the lowest proportion of drystock farms and, consequently, shows the highest innovative performance.

While much of the regional variation is due to the distribution of farm systems across Ireland, there is also some considerable variation within farm systems in innovative performance, it says, suggesting that other regional specific factors are at play.

The report also shows that the dairy sector is the most innovative farm sector, followed by mixed livestock and tillage, while the cattle sector is the least innovative farm sector.

Farmers with high innovative performance levels have higher farm incomes, invest more, have larger farms and are younger than less innovative farmers.

In relation to financial indicators, innovators spent almost 10 times more in value on net new investments than laggards, which is also reflected in their level of borrowings and solvency rate. However, it also shows that 30% of the innovators are cattle farmers and this supports the view that while on average the sector may not be seen as innovative, there is a cohort of progressive business-focused farmers within this sector of agriculture.

The key positive factors which drive innovation it found are: dairy; farm size; access to loans; intensity; marital status and agricultural education. Negative factors on innovation include: cattle rearing enterprises; cattle finishing enterprises; off farm jobs and age.