Moscow, February 6, 2018 - In the years to come, there will be no shortage of agricultural products around the world. This was the scenario described by participants of the 2018 Where the Margin Is conference. The reasons for this are a decrease in population growth rates and an acceleration in the adoption of agro-technologies. At the same time, Russia so far lags behind the pack when it comes to adopting innovations. For example, 10 percent of the technologies used by Russian* agro-workers are related to precision farming, while 80 percent of farmers in the countries of the European Union and 60 percent of U.S. farmers employ such technologies. Market experts and representatives of agricultural enterprises have found opportunities for technological progress in agribusiness.

Among the key technologies impacting the food industry by 2030, experts named alternative proteins, technologies for verifying food quality and safety, personalized nutrition recommendations based on genetic testing, precision farming, gene-edited crops and microbial technology. Just as with any technology, however, of critical importance in this are solutions based on the analysis of big data. 

Dirk Seelig, Deputy General Manager of CLAAS Vostok, identified the following development paths for agricultural engineering in the Eurasian Economic Union market. “These are the localization of production, innovative technologies and a highly stable network of distribution partners. Machine integration cuts costs, prevents mistakes and eliminates the human factor.”

Alexander Belov, Head of Commercial Services at Syngenta, believes that there is a huge selection of efficiency-enhancing technologies ready to be implemented in agriculture. “These include agricultural management systems, livestock management systems and smart irrigation, satellites and drones, and data collection sensors. How can we explain the slow pace of adopting innovations? The fault lies primarily with people: both farmers and us as well.”

“The agricultural industry is the least impacted by digital innovations. Technology can be brought to users in a matter of days. There’s no point in worrying about technology reducing staff: it will speed up production, thereby providing time for other tasks. For example, accountants didn’t lose their jobs because of Excel; they simply started working faster,” said Vitaly Buzu, General Director of IntTerra.

In the past, the slow pace of technological development in rural areas was blamed on a lack of communications infrastructure. Now, according to statistics provided by Buzu, 82 percent of people aged 30-50 working in agribusiness have Internet access via their phone or tablet. The main reason agro-workers do not buy technology is that they do not know what they need, and they lack the time, effort or means to test every technology. In light of this, the market needs independent experts to provide objective recommendations concerning technology.  

“We, the agricultural producers, are caught in the middle. There are investors who are looking for profitable business models. There are start-ups with agricultural innovations. It is very difficult for them to reach us, the agricultural producers, to speak with us on our terms and sell us a product that we really need. On the one hand, there are suppliers who are interested in promoting technology, but only if they can maintain their margin and their share of the market,” said Patrick Gidirim, Managing Director of the AgroTerra Group of Companies, commenting on the situation in the market for agricultural technologies. In AgroTerra’s experience, technology makes it into the big market when know-how is tested in real production conditions before being sold. To carry out such testing, the company opened a research center on 15,500 hectares in the Central Black Earth Region. In 2017, the center tested four start-ups, 12 technologies and 88 crop varieties. Farmers can review the results to see how much a new solution will improve their performance.  

Farmers and large producers understand that, looking ahead 10 years, ignoring technologies will lead to less demand for their products. “We anticipate increased global competition in agriculture, so we need to prepare and promote technology in order to maximize efficiency,” predicts Maxim Seregin, Head of Sales and Marketing for Russia and the CIS at EuroChem.