A technological boom is about to take place in the agrarian sector

Productivity of the Hungarian agrarian sector is comparable even to that of the Western European countries with much more advanced agrarian culture, but for this information technology equipment have to be used as broadly as possible – emphasized Szilárd Gombos, Director of T-Systems, responsible for strategic projects in its interview to agrarszektor.hu.

Who and for what purpose founded the Agrarian Information Technology Cluster?

Veronika Erős: The Agrarian Information Technology Cluster was founded in October 2014 by two large companies, two Hungarian universities and eight innovative small and medium-sized enterprises. Its goal is to facilitate Hungarian agrarian innovation and broader use of advanced information technology systems in the agrarian agriculture.

Szilárd Gombos: State-of-the-art technology can be the breakaway point for the Hungarian agrarian sector. In Hungary, the agrarian sector is an area of key importance; however its efficiency and output are much lower than those of the Western A technological boom is about to takeEuropean areas with roughly the same characteristics. The arrears in the average yields are approximately 40 to 50 percent. There are two main reasons for this. On the one hand, we are in arrears in mechanization and organization, whereas on the other hand the share of the black economy is also significant, which is not included in the official production data, either. Developments in the agrarian information technology may provide solutions for both problems.

V. E.: Information technology and modern technology is able to increase efficiency also in the case of an agrarian enterprise. We founded the Agrarian Information Technology Cluster to hold together the isolated developments, to seek resources for the developments, as well as to improve the motivation of the Hungarian farmers to use the new technologies.

How have the agrarian information technology developments contributed to the improvement of competitiveness and efficiency?

Sz. G.: On the one hand, technology helps reduce the administrative burden and optimise work processes. On the other hand, it makes the cyclic agriculture greatly dependent on external circumstances much more predictable. There are, for example complex sensorial monitoring systems that help to determine, when and with what intensity individual sections of the arable areas need to be watered, where spraying is necessary, when the crop must be harvested, etc. But there are already intelligent greenhouses, with the use of which for example the taste, colour or size of tomatoes can be exactly determined. There are similar technologies in livestock breeding, as well: there are automated feeding and drink systems, or the movements and daily activities of the animals can be monitored with chips and sensors. On the other hand comprehensive, integrated systems interconnecting precision and telematics equipment with the complex economical management systems are still to be implemented.

A technological boom is about to take place in the agrarian sector
V. E.: As Szilárd mentioned, reducing the administrative burden is also an important task, because it can make an agrarian enterprise more efficient and competitive, because more resources can be devoted to its core activities. There are central administrative systems, supporting for example the disbursement of the EU subsidies to the farmers. The farmers have to provide data to these systems on regular basis, but these data can automatically be retrieved from an integrated agricultural system. Technology plays an enormously important role also in the field of food safety. With the improved systems, the route of the food can be monitored along the entire supply chain, from the productivity improving substances added to the soil, through the chemicals used during the production to where and how the food products were processed. The use of such a fully transparent food safety system may also represent a price premium factor for the producers.

What is the current status of these developments? What is the position of Hungary in an international comparison?

Sz.G.: Various telematic equipment are used in Hungary in some places, however the use of fully comprehensive and integrated systems is not yet typical for our country. Great many elements and individual developments have still to be interconnected for this to work. The Agrarian Information Technology Cluster was established on the basis of this very same recognition. These solutions are already in broader use in Western Europe, but there aren’t yet complex and integrated systems where precision agricultural equipment and economic administrative management systems are interconnected. In summary, Western Europe has an advantage from the aspect of technological development, but it is also an important goal for us to achieve competitive advantage against our neighboring countries, which are on the similar level.

What goals have you set for yourselves?

V.E.: The objective of the Cluster is threefold. The first one is the interconnection of the existing development capacities and the users in order to implement the planned integrated systems, also supporting the various domestic startups and developer companies in entering the market. The second important objective is to direct the attention of the development policy on the innovation and R&D activity performed in the agricultural sector, and to provide the required support resources for the area. Currently the agrarian sector is a stepchild: the resources available for such projects are scarce. Our third key objective is to motivate the farmers to start progressively using the latest technologies. The best way to facilitate this is, if resources dedicated to agrarian information technology developments will appear among the EU supporting resources. In the EU financial cycle between 2014 and 2020 two support programs will be implemented, within the frame of which resources can be allocated for agricultural innovation. These are the Rural Development Program and the Economic Development and Innovation Operative Program.

Sz.G.: One of our important tasks is to introduce ourselves at various professional forums and conferences and to express our concepts. We have to reach the decision makers to ensure that the aspects of agricultural information technology are taken into consideration, when the directions of development implemented using EU resources are determined.

What result have you been able to achieve during the past eight months?

V.E.: During the period since October 2014, the number of members of the Cluster has increased from twelve to sixteen. We have attended a huge number of professional forums and conferences, where we were able to emphasize the significance of agrarian information technology. We have submitted a number of entries to tenders focusing on the development of agrarian information technology, and we prepared a number of tender documents for the R&D subsidies announced within the frame of GINOP. We have completed the work plan of the Cluster for the year 2015, which determines our goals for this year – and the means necessary to achieve them – along a number of aspects.

Sz.G.: We are still at the beginning of the journey, but we already have achieved a lot merely by thinking together with the members of the Cluster. The operative programs determining the development directions for the period between 2014 and 2020 are currently being finalized, and we hope that we have been able to direct the attention of the decision makers to the importance of agrarian innovation. A key objective of the Cluster is to educate the farmers, as we are talking about a relatively conservative community, which is not necessarily open to novelties. We think, however, that from the aspect of sustainable development supporting technological procurement is much more important than subsidies that do not encourage efficiency improvement. Technological development is also of key importance, because the Hungarian agrarian sector is free of GMO, however on the world market we have to compete with genetically manipulated food products, which is only possible with the development of technology. Objectives of the Cluster also include foreign export of the advanced means and systems developed with the help of the Cluster, thus facilitating the success of our members on the market.

Source: www.agrarszektor.hu

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