Innovation on farms, to improve food supply, addressed by conference
Innovation Profile Aims include competing in a global market, efficient production and preserving resources
From left: Prof Gerry Boyle, director, Teagasc; Tom Kelly, director knowledge transfer, Teagasc; Inge Van Oost, EU Commission, DG agriculture and rural development; and Dr Hugh Brady, president UCD
The need for increased on-farm innovation in order to meet the food supply and security challenges which lie ahead for Europe and, indeed, the world was addressed at a three-day Knowledge Transfer Conference organised by Teagasc in UCD earlier this month.
The conference’s aim was to facilitate discussions among policy-makers, advisory-services managers and other stakeholders on the effectiveness of farm-advisory services in giving innovation support to farmers (through measures proposed in latest Common Agricultural Policy round for 2013 to 2020).
This renewed focus on farm-advisory services and the need for innovation in agriculture is driven by increased global demand for food that is produced efficiently and sustainably.
The EU recognises that supporting agriculture through market measures and direct payments contributes to the viability of production systems and the sustainability of the industry.
It is also recognised that European agriculture is losing competitiveness and that there is a widening gap in the adoption of new research knowledge, systems innovation and the implementation of improvements.
The latest round of CAP reform has seen economic support shifting from a production-based approach to one primarily aimed at supporting the public good.
This will require improved efficiency in production which in turn will bring the role of agricultural research and advisory services centre stage.
This has resulted in an EU proposal to improve innovation support systems for farmers and improve the adoption of new and relevant technologies on farms through the expansion of the role of the Farm Advisory System (FAS) and the establishment of a European Innovation Partnership (EIP) for “agriculture productivity and sustainability”.
The aim of the conference was to create an opportunity for what has been described as some “slow thinking” on how farm advisory services and agricultural consultants can contribute to innovation.
Among the keynote speakers was Inge Van Oost of the European Commission who told the conference that the EU is very aware of the important role advisory services will play in solving future challenges that farmers will have to adapt to.
“Staying competitive in a changing agricultural world is not easy and business-as-usual will not be enough.
“There is an increasing global demand for food and not only for food, but also for feed, fuel, fibre, bio-based products etc.
“There is also a huge need to preserve our finite resources and to manage them more efficiently.
“Marrying these needs and demands and staying competitive on a global market is our common mission. That is why we need innovative approaches that we build together, and this is what the EIP wants to deliver.”