Of the 300 farmers surveyed, a majority say they mainly use digital technology for financial and banking transactions, administrative formalities and information retrieval. “Personally, I use the internet and software to pay my bills. My data for the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) is also entered online and with the Ariane system I manage my herd of cows,” explains Philippe Mélotte, owner of the farm of the same name, who recently expanded its activity (cows and chickens) to the production of homemade pasta. “And I plan to use other technologies in the future,” he continues.
However, other fellow farmers still find it difficult to take the digital leap, citing cost (54%), complexity (48%) and time available (39%) as barriers to using digital tools.
“Our report confirms a trend that is a reality in Wallonia, namely that the Walloon agricultural population is relatively old. 73 percent of farmers are between 45 and 75 years old, which partly explains a certain slowdown or disinterest in the digital world,” analyzes Bernard Keppenne, chief economist at CBC.
Positive effect on sustainability
The study shows that farmers using new technologies see a positive impact on the sustainability of their farms on three pillars: environment (43%), economy (32%) and social aspects (10%). “If the environmental aspect takes precedence, the positive effect in the economic field is visible in the form of cost reduction (55%) and cost measurement (47%). With regard to social sustainability, it is mainly about optimizing the equipment to do the work and the facilitate exchanges with colleagues,” explains Keppenne.
In addition, 7 out of 10 farmers who use digital tools believe that new technologies will help them reduce their carbon footprint. “This positive effect will be felt in the form of reduced input consumption (62%), optimization of animal welfare equipment (55%) and reduced energy dependence (54%),” the report said.
In this regard, 1 in 4 farmers using digital tools has planned technology investments for the next 2 years (23%), a trend that is 8 percent higher than in 2019.
“The environment is at the heart of people’s concerns and farmers are one of the key players who can improve the situation. They have linked the climate challenge to new technologies and are satisfied with their use,” Keppenne sums up. “The majority of farmers (80%) believe their business is able to adapt to current and future energy, climate and environmental challenges.
The latest finding of the study is that more than 1 in 2 Walloon farmers have noticed a change in behavior among consumers, who have turned to the short supply chain en masse during the pandemic (86%). Nevertheless, three quarters of them believe that these behavioral changes are not permanent.
The crisis in Ukraine, which has exacerbated price increases, has had an impact on the activity of 8 out of 10 Walloon farmers, mainly in the form of reduced profitability (57%). For example, 4 in 10 farmers believe that this new crisis is jeopardizing the viability of their activity, according to the report.