Investments in research and development (R&D) and precision farming in the long term will allow raising investment in GDP by more than 30 times, professor of the Kyiv School of Economics (KSE) Oleh Nivievsky said during a panel discussion at Interfax-Ukraine on Thursday.
“One dollar of investment in research in the agricultural sector produces an average of $ 32 in national wealth in the long term. Compared to investment in infrastructure, the figure there is up to $ 5 per dollar invested in it. Accordingly, the potential of agricultural R&D is much higher than it might seem,” he stressed.
In addition, according to the expert, for the Ukrainian conditions of investment in agrarian R&D with the simultaneous introduction of precision farming methods, this indicator can be increased by 10%.
The panel discussion on the development of precision farming was also attended by Olha Trofimtseva, the President of the Ukrainian Agri-Food Platform; Serhiy Sychevsky, Bayer business development manager; Dmytro Zaitsev, the head of the precision farming service of Continental Farmers Group agricultural holding; head of the precision farming and telemetry department in Ukraine, Moldova, Scandinavia and the Baltic States at CNH Ukraine Mykola Chornonos; Kyrylo Druzhinin, the director for innovation at Agrain.
“If the technology responds to one of two questions: to make working conditions easier for a person or to improve its results, then it already makes sense to study it. Further, the area of the field is studied, what crops are planted on it, what technology and production culture we have,” Continental representative Zaitsev explained the approach to the introduction of precision farming.
Representative of Agrain agricultural holding Druzhinin, in turn, clarified that the methods of introducing precision farming can differ significantly for agricultural holdings with thousands of hectares in processing and for farmers with a land bank of tens of hectares. According to him, another trend in precision farming will be a reduction in the number of workers in agriculture and a change in the demand for professions: for example, now tractor drivers in an agricultural holding are more likely to perform the functions of operators controlling the autonomous operation of machines.
“The progress that we have in technology is just the space. If you look at machinery as a thing that performs some kind of operation instead of you, you will not see progress. But if you look at it as a way to facilitate work and a means of reducing costs, then we have the fact of a technological revolution that is taking place before our eyes,” Druzhinin emphasized.
According to him, at present, Agrain has practically completed the transfer of equipment to the autonomous processing of fields, when agricultural machines can independently move along the specified navigation lines not only in a straight line, but also turn around in the aisle.
Serhiy Sychevsky clarified that one of the problems of the widespread introduction of autonomous machinery is the small number of innovative machines in Ukraine that is capable of generating data on movement, which can be read and used by equipment from other manufacturers in the future. He cited the estimates of Bayer, according to which in Ukraine now only about 20% of combines and seeders can generate high-quality navigation data for autonomous operation.
“I will make a small emphasis: at the Agritech exhibition in Germany, we will offer a solution that we will also offer in Ukraine. It will allow increasing the number of compatible combines that can generate such information in the fields,” Bayer’s business development manager said.
The representative of CNH Ukraine, Mykola Chornonos, emphasized a significant shortage of personnel capable of developing the direction of precision farming, especially specialists in the field of data analytics and machine learning. During the discussion, the participants supported the opinion that not a single educational institution in Ukraine prepares specialists in this industry, while agricultural companies themselves are engaged in their training “from scratch.”
He also noted the need for the state to determine strategic directions for the development of the agro-industrial complex and initiate development in them.
“If you look, in recent years, there has been an increase in the service orientation of the agro-industrial complex. In fact, all manufacturing companies are switching to service models of cooperation with their end customers. One of the good cases where you can see this transformation is the drone market, which is growing every year. This year if I’m not mistaken, their growth was 700%. Where else can you see this?” Olha Trofimtseva said.
Despite such volumes of market growth, such companies are gradually switching to a service model of work, selling not only equipment, but also services for their maintenance.