Innovation in agriculture is a key priority for Ireland’s Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Phil Hogan.

Speaking today in Europe, he said the Juncker Commission will be political, in the sense of working hand in hand with the Parliament, listening to the voice of European citizens and acting on their guidance.

“Agriculture has always been an innovative sector. Most of the farms of today have little in common with the farms of the 1950s. And the farms of 2050 will probably differ significantly from the farms of today.”

European farming has seen much innovation he said, and farmers have delivered on the societal goals of food security, food safety and quality. They have achieved this while protecting the environment and being more resource efficient, however, the challenges and also the opportunities that are ahead of us are as great today as they were 60 years ago, he said.

Food security, he said, is a bigger challenge than ever, with a global population expected to reach 9.6 billion people by 2050.

“World food systems will have to increase in efficiency and productivity to ensure that people have access to the food they need. We will have to do more with less, through greater use of recycling, up-cycling and above all, wasting less. EU agriculture should be at the forefront of this efficiency drive.”

Part of this will be to encourage young people who are innovative to see farming as an attractive, high tech and rewarding career, he said.

“Innovative agriculture should also ensure the protection of natural resources, biodiversity, landscape, soil and water, and increase the environmental and climate benefits that farming provides.

“The Rural Development Programme will stimulate rural areas to strengthen and diversify economic activity. The rollout of fast broadband everywhere will see greater use of data collection and data analytics in crop and livestock management. To use two concepts that you will hear more often in the future: this is Big Data for Precision Farming. Biomass, bio-energy and the bio-based economy will develop further.”

Innovation is the key to sustainable rural development: through innovation, we can maintain the competitiveness of the agri-food sector and create more and better jobs in rural areas, all the while safe-guarding the planet for future generations, he said.