French International Agricultural Exhibition: Digital technology makes agriculture more “fashionable”

French International Agricultural Exhibition: Digital technology makes agriculture more “fashionable”

At the recent French international agricultural exhibition, the staff of a cooperative is scanning the barcode of the product to introduce the traceability of its agricultural products to the audience. (Photo by reporter Gong Ming)

A few days ago, at the French International Agricultural Exhibition, more than 20 French agricultural digital technology start-ups displayed a variety of digital agricultural solutions in the “Agriculture 4.0” exhibition area. The application of big data, artificial intelligence, internet and other technologies has made the traditional industry of agriculture “fashionable”.

Digital technology allows more people to pay attention to and understand agriculture

This year is the fourth time to set up the “Agriculture 4.0” exhibition area at the French International Agricultural Exhibition, and the area of ​​the exhibition area and the number of exhibitors have been expanded. From technological equipment such as drones and Robots, to data analysis software such as agrometeorology and soil composition, to mutual assistance mechanisms such as farm tool rental and project crowdfunding, as well as e-commerce platforms and farm management solutions, digital technology is applied in all aspects of the agricultural industry. .

The drones presented by the drone service provider Airinov attracted a lot of attention from the audience. Julian Gehry, the innovation affairs manager of the company, told reporters that the sensors on this drone use the principle of multispectral imaging to identify the health level of crops with different colors, which is clear at a glance. Based on the crop growth conditions observed by drones, farmers can take targeted improvement measures to “promote better production with the right dose at the right time”.

A herdsman in the Jura Mountains in eastern France wanted to raise 2,000 euros to build a cheese-processing workshop, but was unable to support it. Through cooperation with crowdfunding company MiiMosa, the crowdfunding projects he participated in have completed 64% of the financing. The herdsman promised to provide returns to the investors, including donating cheese, visiting the ranch, “farmhouse” experience, etc., as well as profit sharing. This “crowdfunding + in-kind compensation” method is novel and pragmatic, attracting many visitors. According to reports, MiiMosa developed a lending function last year to introduce family investment. This year, it plans to launch a new platform to encourage companies and institutions to participate in crowdfunding.

According to statistics from a French investment agency, there are currently more than 200 promising start-ups in the field of digital agriculture in France, covering the entire Industrial value chain, and agricultural technology innovation projects are growing explosively.

French agricultural e-commerce has also developed. The number of users of the agricultural e-commerce platform Agriconomie has grown to 25,000 in four years, and it is also popular in Spain, Italy, Belgium and other countries. “Online purchase of farm tools, fertilizers, seeds, etc., the price is 10% lower than the average market price. There is also direct logistics delivery, saving money and time.” Yannick, the person in charge of the company, told reporters.

Jean-Yves, a farmer from Brittany, showed reporters a website. On this website, Jean-Yves can obtain satellite images of his own fields, and decide on irrigation, weeding and other corresponding operations according to the different colors of the images. “In the past, we worked on the whole field, but now we only work on the fields that need to be treated, which saves a lot of energy.” Jean-Yves said, he will regularly record the growth status of crops and the fertilization at each stage. Jean-Yves enthusiastically recommended the food traceability mobile phone software he used to the reporter: “Customers who buy my corn can scan the barcode to see all the information about its growth process. This is very reassuring.”

Carina Cayo, promotion director of the “Digital Farm” of the French Association of Digital Agriculture, introduced that digital agriculture has three main advantages: First, it saves time and physical effort, and many heavy and low-value-added manual work can be done by robots. The second is to save costs and increase profits. With the help of computer algorithms, farmers can better predict and respond to crop diseases or malnutrition, reduce risks and save investment. Third, in the long run, precision agriculture puts less pressure on the environment, and rational fertilization, drug use and irrigation meet the needs of ecological agriculture. “Under the pressure of climate change, land depletion, population pressure and sharp decline in biodiversity, how to balance sustainable development and increase farmers’ income through digital technology is a major issue for future agricultural development.”

Sophie Kushwar, director of the MiiMosa project, said that digital technology has allowed more people to pay attention to and understand agriculture. Taking crowdfunding as an example, farmers can get funded to carry out diversified operations without the pressure of debt, and funders can get a unique experience. He said that the aging of France continues to increase, and half of the country’s farms will be in a dilemma that no one will take over in the future. Digital technology makes agriculture more “fashionable” and can attract more younger generations to join.

The promotion of digital technology faces multiple obstacles

Despite the promising development prospects, digital technology is not yet highly utilized in the French agricultural sector. According to the French News Network, only 6% to 7% of French farmers will use related mobile phone software for agricultural production operations. Cayo admitted that the promotion of digital technology faces multiple obstacles. On the one hand, due to lack of relevant knowledge and doubts about data security, many farmers have a mentality of rejecting drones and robots. On the other hand, the increase in production and income brought about by digital technology is a long-term effect, and the results are difficult to show quickly. That’s why they set up a “digital farm,” Cayo said, by gathering different types of start-ups to expand their influence and form a cross-promotional effect. The association often organizes member companies to participate in agricultural exhibitions, and establishes close ties with farmers, allowing them to experience the convenience of technology. French farmers have an internet penetration rate of 90 percent, and most have social networking accounts, he said. As consumers’ requirements for goods and services continue to increase, producers must use technological solutions to adapt to new consumer trends such as environmental protection and product traceability.

The reporter learned that the development of digital technology agriculture has been supported by all aspects of France. At the end of 2018, under the framework of the “Future Investment Plan”, the French Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Agency, the French National Investment Bank and the French Environment and Energy Agency launched the “Future Agriculture and Food” project tender, calling on enterprises engaged in agricultural scientific research. Participate in innovative research and development with institutions to create new agricultural products, new services and new models. Digital agriculture transformation is one of the four topics. It is reported that the winning project can receive a minimum financial support of 2 million euros. The French Ministry of Agriculture has also invested nearly 150 million euros to set up an innovation incubator, bringing together more than 300 researchers and establishing an interdisciplinary institution based on research, training and corporate innovation.

Michel Aubinay, vice-chairman of the Higher Agricultural Institute in Angers, France, told reporters that digital technology is one of the important contents of French agricultural education today. The school has set up relevant courses for many majors, hoping to provide more talents for future agricultural development.

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