On October 20th, WFO Head of Policy Development Luisa Volpe joined the session ” A farmer-centric approach for a data-driven transformation of Agriculture,” sponsored by the DEMETER Consortium within the framework of the 24-hour virtual conference “Digital Around The World” hosted by  The Internet of Things International Forum (IoT Forum).

The event focused on the potential impact of digital transformation in the agricultural sector, and Luisa Volpe joined the conversion to bring the farmers’ voice into the debate.

Here are some key messages from the WFO Head of Policy Development:

  • Farmers are called to feed the world while immense pressures weigh on them: a growing world population, the fight against climate change, the urbanization and the loss of agricultural soil are just some of the challenges to which Farmers are confronted every day. The recent outbreak of COVID-19 adds additional pressure on the farmers’ shoulders with the need of feeding a world under lock-down and confronted by a scaring pandemic event. In this context, innovation is a key driver to reach sustainability in agriculture and transform food systems, but too often, farmers are not involved in the strategic planning of innovations. That is why WFO is extremely focused on innovation advocating for a farmers’ driven approach when it comes to innovating the agricultural sector.
  • To close the gap between science and farmers and create bridges that lead to innovations that perfectly match farmers’ need, WFO equipped itself with a Scientific Council, bringing together almost 20 scientists across different domains with the aim to make sure that farmers’ ambitions are answerable to the best available science.
  • Innovation in agriculture, starting from research, can only be farmer-driven, and guided by a BOTTOM-UP approach. Involving farmers leads to the effective adoption of innovations by the farming community. This approach will foster the effective transformation of food systems through farmers led innovation.
  • Farmers are innovators by nature and necessity. They have always looked for better ways to manage their work, save time and resources and adapt to a changing environment. Their wisdom, traditional knowledge, experience, and expertise must be considered. Starting from what farmers already implement on their farm every day, innovation can be the driver to boost and scale up those traditional practices. Innovation in agriculture should serve as a tool in the farmers’ hands. It should be instrumental to farmers’ knowledge and needs instead of being considered as a ONE-FITS- ALL SOLUTION.
  • Digitalization is key for the farmers and the agricultural sector in general. Digital solutions support farmers in any stage of the production: from improving animal health to the health of the soil, enhancing the management of such a critical resource for the farmers.
  • Pre-requirements for innovation are needed to drive farmers’ uptake of digital technologies: the creation of an enabling political environment and political coherence in different Countries, public and private investments’ capacity, infrastructures availability, and training programs for farmers that support the use of technologies.
  • Agriculture generates a large amount of data to be processed and utilised, and this is undoubtedly a huge opportunity for farmers to improve their work towards sustainability and resilience. However, farmers have concerns about how their data may be used.
  • Data ownership is a huge chapter: farmers are not supposed to change attitude but to run their business in a manner that is profitable and viable for them.
  • It is of the utmost importance that new business models for data management consider all the stages of agricultural data collection (raw and aggregated data).