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Enhancing Digitalisation in Agriculture: Insights from European Policy Environments 

May 7, 2024 | Blog, CODECS News

Authors: María Alonso Roldán and María del Mar Delgado Serrano 

In the area of digitalisation in agriculture, the CODECS Work Package 6 is working diligently to develop an evidence-based policy strategy aimed at fostering sustainable digitalisation. One of the primary goals is to deliver policy recommendations that can enhance farmers’ digital readiness and promote the adoption of digital technologies, along with exploring new forms of agricultural knowledge and innovation systems (AKIS) services. 

In March 2024, the University of Córdoba team, led by María del Mar Delgado and María Alonso Roldán, submitted the Draft Report on Policy Environments . This report marks the culmination of their work over the initial 18 months of the project, unveiling some compelling results: 

  1. Review of EU-funded projects and initiatives. A comprehensive analysis of 145 EU-funded projects and initiatives was made to look for policy recommendations surrounding digitalisation in agriculture and rural areas. Of these, 27 projects offered direct or indirect policy recommendations, covering aspects such as infrastructure, data governance, skills development, and socio-economic considerations. Other 13 projects or initiatives are yet to deliver their outcomes. Additionally, three projects requiring close monitoring were identified during the interviews: Chameleon, Spade and the CODECS-sister project Quantifarm, all of which are funded through Horizon Europe. 

Figure 1 EU-funded projects and initiatives reviewed 

  1. Monitoring policy areas. Drawing from their experience in DESIRA H2020 project, the UCO team tracked the progress of previously analysed policy areas regarding digitalisation in agriculture. Furthermore, they identified new policy domains linked to the 20 CODECS Living Labs, associating each Focal Action Situation (FAS) with corresponding EU policies and strategies. Future reviews will encompass policies on animal welfare, food safety, plant health, biosecurity, fertilisation, e-commerce, and the Common Agricultural Policy National Strategic Plans of the 16 CODECS participating Member States. 
  1. Insights from stakeholder interviews. A total of 26 people with different profiles were interviewed, including 20 stakeholders representing 13 CODECS countries (Belgium, Czechia, Germany, Greece, Italy, Latvia, North Macedonia, Poland, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, The Netherlands) and six representatives for DG AGRI, DG CNECT and the BCO Network. The interviews with policy-makers provided valuable insights into the state of digitalisation across countries, highlighting a diverse spectrum of efforts and challenges. Despite the progress made in the digitalisation journey by individual countries, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated digitalisation efforts worldwide. This has led to the rapid development of digital solutions and services across various sectors, especially in public administration and service delivery, as well as increased adoption of digital technologies. 

However, several longstanding challenges persist, including addressing the urban-rural gap in terms of access to high-quality connectivity, enhancing digital skills, and ensuring equitable access to digital transformation initiatives. Additionally, newer challenges such as interoperability, data governance, and cross-border collaboration are now being taken into consideration. 

Key Messages from the report: 

  1. Policies play a crucial role in (agriculture) digitalisation. 
  1. Digitalisation in the agriculture sector and rural areas requires specific and tailor-made policies. 
  1. Digitalisation in agriculture is a multi-stage process, closely linked to technology uptake and development.  image

Figure 2 Stages of digitalisation in agriculture. 

4. Farmers’ skills and competencies emerge as a crucial challenge. 

5. AKIS, agricultural administrations and farming advisors need to upskill and reskill their competencies to give answers to the new needs. 

6. Agriculture digitalisation is affected by different divides. 

These preliminary outputs lay the groundwork for further refinement in the final report on Policy Environments for digitalisation in Europe (Deliverable 6.2), slated for completion by September 2025. It is envisioned that this report will present richer policy recommendations, paving the way for a more sustainable and digitally empowered agricultural sector in Europe.

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