Authors: Véronique Bellon Maurel and Christian Huyghe
Journal Title: Oilseeds and fats, crops and lipids
ISSN: 2257-6614 (Online)
Publisher: EDP Sciences
The agro-ecological transition is an ambitious challenge. It can be met by implementing the fundamentals of agroecology (use of biodiversity, integration of agriculture in landscapes, closure of flow loops) in the context of a broad and renewed offer of technologies: agro-equipment, biotechnology, digital technologies…
This article explores the role that agro-equipment and digital services can play in this transition. These technologies contribute through various levers to the agro-ecological transition: by improving farming efficiency (more service rendered for the same environmental impact), by precision farming (adaptation of the operations to the needs of the plant or the animal based on a monitoring, diagnosis–recommendation cycle) and by the development of specialized machinery helping the farmer to achieve “flow loop-closing” (at the plot level, by maintaining the soil quality, or at the farm level, with the recycling of organic effluents) or to take advantage of biodiversity (e.g., with agro-equipment adapted to mixed crops).
The technological bricks that are requested and for which advances are expected are: sensors (to measure plant or animal needs) and associated digital technologies (information transfer, data processing), precision technologies for input application, robotics, specialized machines to manage soil cover and weeds, or for agroforestry. The brakes and engines for innovation in agro-equipment are studied. The brakes are the generally small structure of the farm manufacturing companies, the deficit of the demand from farmers and the complexity, either real or perceived − of these equipments.
To encourage innovation, several levers are to be used: involving users in the design of agro-equipments, creating financial incentives for innovative equipment purchase, and training end-users, prescribers and dealers to the high potential of these new technologies. In conclusion, putting agro-equipment and digital technology at the service of agroecology is not a straightforward route, but it is above all a real opportunity to produce better, technically and organizationally, with the emergence of new solidarities (sharing of data and knowledge). This is why it is absurd, as it is sometimes read, to oppose agroecology and technology. Agroecology is a set of practices to be built, while agro-equipment and digital technologies are a set of resources to be mobilized, with others, to achieve the objectives of sustainable agricultural production.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Illustration Photo: Extension Associate Professor John Lory talks about his study with a high-crop style tractor mounted with sensors to more accurately distribute nitrogen to row crops and forages. (credits: Kyle Spradley | © MU College of Agriculture, Food & Natural Resources / Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0))