Thousands of farmers have tried new digital tech since the pandemic

More than 40% of farmers have tried new technologies as a direct result of the global pandemic. That’s according to a Map of Ag’s Farm Research Unit poll of 2,218 farmers across the UK and the Republic of Ireland. The results, which have been weighted against our industry model (AgRadar), suggests more than 63,000 farmers have tried new digital technology since we went into lockdown in March 2020.

 

The pandemic has had huge repercussions for a wide range of industries with face-to-face meetings prevented and travel limited, resulting in an accelerated move to digital alternatives. Not surprisingly, there has been a boom in digital technology services and apps to keep industry professionals engaged, communicating and in business.

The results of the poll show that farmers are rapidly adapting to overcome the logisitical and operational challenges of Covid 19 restrictions. Adopting these digital technologies in their personal and business life has been a huge shift for some.

The most frequently cited digital technology was Zoom, which made up a huge 56% of all new digital technology used since the start of the pandemic. Meetings, both social and business, made up over 80% of the reasons why Zoom was used by farmers. Specifically, auctions, courses, inspections, and accountant meetings were all mentioned as reasons.

Zoom was strongest in England where nearly 85% of the total 40% (63,000 farmers) that had used a new digital technology had used the cloud-based video conferencing service. In Scotland this figure was 80%, Wales 75%, Northern Ireland 75% and in The Republic of Ireland 78%.

WhatsApp was the second most cited technology with an average of 17% of farmers across all nations using it for the first time since the start of the pandemic. Microsoft Teams was third at 13%.

The use of Teams was more business focused than that of Zoom, and farmers said courses, inspections, committee meetings, and customer discussions were key reasons for use.

Farmers using social media for the first time averaged at 7% across the nations. While the main reason for social media use was for personal reasons, many farmers did say they had also used it to look at farming related topics and to keep updated throughout the pandemic.

“The shift towards digital, whether this be for social or business reasons, will help with the adoption and engagement with new technologies going forwards,” explained Alastair Grizzell, Head of Sales at Map of Ag.

“The combination of both advances in technology and the pressures for businesses to operate sustainably, suggest that the move to digital, in many cases, could be here to stay even when all restrictions are lifted.”

Other smaller digital sources used since the pandemic included online livestock markets and selling platforms, YouTube, online banking, Webex and Google Hangouts.

“As farmers become more digitally engaged there is an opportunity for businesses to reach a larger online audience. We could see an increase in use of more specific farm-based technologies and the possibility of further agri-tech start-ups in this space, as farmers become more comfortable with cloud-based systems.” Mr Grizzell concluded.

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