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BLOG: Smart Farming is key for the future of agriculture

The area of land available for agriculture has decreased between 2015 and 2013 by 0,7%[1]. If the EU wants to expand or maintain its current food output it needs to increase its productivity - without imposing an additional burden on the environment. More with less, welcome to the world of Smart Farming

What is Smart Farming?

Smart Farming is a farming management concept using modern technology to increase the quantity and quality of agricultural products. Farmers in the 21st century have access to GPS, soil scanning, data management, and Internet of Things technologies. By precisely measuring variations within a field and adapting the strategy accordingly, farmers can greatly increase the effectiveness of pesticides and fertilizers, and use them more selectively. Similarly, using Smart Farming techniques, farmers can better monitor the needs of individual animals and adjust their nutrition correspondingly, thereby preventing disease and enhancing herd health.

Smart Farming is about “…taking the right cultivation measure at the right place at the right time– Jacob van den Borne, van den Borne aardappelen.[2]

What do you need for Smart Farming?

Knowledge and capital are essential for any innovation. New farming technologies require more and more professional skills. A farmer today is not only a person with a passion for agriculture, he or she is also a legal expert (to find their way through a growing maze of regulations) and a part-time data analyst, economist and accountant (making a living from selling agricultural produce requires bookkeeping skills and an in-depth knowledge of market chains and price volatility).

Furthermore, Smart Farming requires capital. Thankfully, there are a wide range of options available. From using low capital investment smart phone applications that track your livestock to a capital-intensive automated combine. In principle, implementing Smart Farming technologies can be easily upscaled.

A record $4.6 billion of venture capital was invested in the ag-tech sector in 2015, in comparison with virtually zero in 2005”.[3]

How is the EU supporting Smart Farming?

The EU currently supports the implementation and development of Smart Farming through a wide variety of policies, these include: The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP); regional policy; environmental policy; food safety policy; competition policy, and the EU’s innovation policy.[4]

The current development of Smart Farming technologies is mainly financed through the Horizon 2020 research policy and the CAP’s Rural development policy[5]. Yet, the implementation of Smart Farming in the EU is financed through local, regional and national regional development programs, which are co-funded by the EU and the relevant Member State.

The proliferation of programmes related to Smart Farming results in an overly complex system, resulting in high bureaucratic costs and high barriers to entry when looking for funding. Luckily, the EU is currently in the process of simplifying[6] its programs, rules and regulations, and reforming its approach to innovation within the agri-food sector: “… [the objective] is to have a more demand-driven research policy and a more evidence-based agricultural policy”.[7]

This means that there are currently several dynamics at play in the theme of Smart Farming: 1) funding from both the public and private sector is rapidly increasing out of necessity and partly driven by business opportunities; 2) the available funding from the public sector is difficult to get to, and 3) the EU is currently amid a reorganisation of its funding tools.  

Schuttelaar & Partners

We at Schuttelaar & Partners support the development of Smart Farming technologies in the EU. Being one of the founders of the Internet of Food and & Farm 2020 project and managing all its communications and public affairs activities gives us unique insights on everything related to Smart Farming. From giving strategic advice for funding possibilities to making your interests heard in the current reform process, Schuttelaar & Partners can help you make sense of the complex world of Smart Farming. Have a look at S&P relevant services: STRATEGIC ADVICE and PUBLIC AFFAIRS.


[1] Precision agriculture and the future of farming in Europe Scientific Foresight Study IP/G/STOA/FWC/2013-1/Lot 7/SC5 December 2016

[2], retrieved on 18 April 2017.

[4] Precision agriculture and the future of farming in Europe Scientific Foresight Study IP/G/STOA/FWC/2013-1/Lot 7/SC5 December 2016.

[5] European Commission, ‘The European Innovation Partnership "Agricultural Productivity and Sustainability",, retrieved on 27 March 2017.