Most farmers use someone else to submit BPS applications

A majority of farmers use other persons to submit online applications on their behalf for the Basic Payments Scheme (BPS), according to new research.

A study into the use of technology by Irish farmers was released yesterday, Thursday, November 20, as a joint initiative by the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA), data specialist Amárach Research, and Farm Business Skillnet.

The data also showed that dairy farmers seem to be the most engaged with technology, or were most likely to take up technology use in the future. Tillage farmers were also found to have a relatively high level of engagement.

However, the researchers found that, across the farming community, uptake of technology, and technology awareness, is limited among farmers, with personal confidence in the use of technology seen as a key barrier.

Despite the apparent low levels of awareness and uptake, the approximately 760 farmers who were surveyed reported a positive attitude of technology use on farms, with 46% of respondents saying they already used technology to some degree, with a further 40% reporting they would embrace it in the future.

Nonetheless, only 10 specific systems or pieces of equipment registered awareness with one third or more of farmers. Of these, only calf registration and GPS for machine guidance had adoption rates above 75% in a relevant sector.

Barriers

As well as the confidence barrier, six out of every 10 respondents said that access to support and training in technology use was also an impediment, along with internet availability and the actual investment itself.

Not surprisingly, those who reported themselves as lacking confidence in technology use were more likely then others to cite the lack of training and support as a significant barrier.

Those farmers who currently use technology said it saved time on a day-to-day basis. Dairy farmers said it reduced the administration burden, increased livestock knowledge and gave wider access to information; while tillage farmers said that technology had a positive impact on soil knowledge, inputs costs and yields.

On education, approximately 25% of farmers who have completed farming-related training have completed courses in digital farming technology, and it is this cohort that is most likely to invest in technology in the future.

Among the supports that the respondents recommended for “closing the gap” in technology use, face-to-face training with dedicated agri-tech advisors was cited as the preferred method of support.

The researchers argue that the “key requirements” are: to increase confidence; to build appreciation among farmers of the cost vs. benefits; to provide a “hands-on practical” approach to learning; to support through financial incentives; and a better quality of broadband.