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Insights from the EU AGRI-Digital Conference: Paving the Way for a Digital Future in Agriculture

Dec 11, 2023 | Blog, EU institutions

Author: Merveille Ntabuhashe (AEIDL)

The recently concluded EU Agri-Food Days, that took place from 6 to 8 December in Brussels, brought together a diverse group of stakeholders to explore the future of European agriculture, the implications of digital transition, and the crucial role of sustainability.

In her opening speech, European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen highlighted the agricultural sector’s crucial role in food security and economic development. She proposed the launch of a Strategic Dialogue starting in January, bringing together diverse stakeholders, from farmers and food entrepreneurs to scientists, retailers, and environmental groups.

Agriculture and Rural Development Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski envisions the future of EU agriculture based on “the 4 S’s – security, stability, sustainability, and solidarity.”

Additionally, Gijs Schilthuis, Head of Unit for Policy Perspectives at the European Commission, emphasised the vital role of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) for making agriculture more sustainable. The recent report, “Summary of CAP Strategic Plans for 2023-27,” reinforces the Commission’s belief in CAP’s role in preserving farmers’ income and ensuring food security while transitioning to a sustainable model.

Released in conjunction with the EU Agri Food Days, the European Commission published the EU Agricultural Outlook 2023-35. This medium-term outlook provides a comprehensive overview of the prospects for major EU agricultural markets, income, and the environment until 2035.

The Agri-Digital Conference, organised on 8 December, featured firsthand experiences from the field, providing valuable insights from experts, stakeholders, policymakers and farmers. These testimonies painted a vivid picture of both the tangible benefits and challenges faced in the adoption of digital technologies in farming. A key takeaway was the acknowledgment that digitalisation can indeed become a reality, but it must contribute to the resilience and wellbeing of rural communities and the agricultural sector in rural areas.

The Joint Research Centre (JRC) unveiled a ‘Toolkit for Policymakers: Digital Transition for Farmers and Rural Communities’ during the event. This toolkit aims to guide policymakers in reflecting on the implications of digital transition in a conversational format. By fostering discussions, it enables a comprehensive understanding of the opportunities and effects of digitalisation, ultimately aiding in improved planning at national, regional, and local levels.

During the panel discussion on “Shaping the Future”, Gianluca Brunori, Full Professor of Food Policy at the University of Pisa and CODECS Coordinator, emphasised the pivotal role of imagination in developing and implementing digital technologies. Brunori highlighted the JRC toolkit as a valuable resource to encourage innovation in rural areas. He underscored the importance of collaborative decision-making to ensure that digitalisation addresses the actual needs of farmers and rural communities.

Catherine Geslain-Lanéelle, Director of Strategy and Policy Analysis at the Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development, European Commission, concluded the proceedings by emphasising the inevitability of digitalisation in farming. She highlighted its potential to address challenges ranging from optimising resources to enhancing farm efficiency.

The conference underscored the need for a collective effort, public policies, and support to ensure a smooth, inclusive, and sustainable transition to digital agriculture. As the digital journey continues, the EU remains committed to creating conditions that align with the values of sustainability, connectivity, and community wellbeing.

CODECS project aim to create sustainable digital practices, using tools and methods to understand and maximise the benefits of agricultural digitalisation. The goal is to enhance capabilities of farmers and promote sustainability in agriculture through strategic digital ecosystem development.

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