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Our industry has seen many changes over the last century, but one of the biggest changes occurring is the dawn of an era of digitally enhanced agriculture where modern instruments a giving us reams of pinpoint accurate data about our output and methods of production.

ICOS has long championed the driving of innovation in the industry. The use of data should be a tool that if used correctly can help improve efficiency, increase productivity, and contribute to a better use of resources. And the overall goal of these improvements must be geared to delivering better returns at farm level and better returns for co-operatively owned farmer businesses.

Ireland is making strides in the right direction in the area with organisations with a strong farmer orientated ethos are active in the area. These include the ICBF, AHI, FRS and Bord Bia, to name a few, attempting to harness data for the good of the industry.

The Department are also making strides here as evidenced with their app to give real-time prices in beef factories around the country, not to mention their use of the AIM (animal movement) system.

The private sector is also making headway with Kerry milk technology company Dairymaster one of many enterprises leading the way.

ICOS recently hosted them in at a conference on Big Data in Agriculture in Brussels, where their research and innovation head Dr John Daly (pictured) outlined what innovations this highly progressive company were doing around using data to help profitability and time-saving at farm level in Ireland and beyond.

The recently published Food Wise 2025 document aims for an 85% growth in our agri exports to €19 billion. This, if achieved, is projected to result in the region of 26,000 new jobs. The use of the ‘Big Data’ technological innovation agenda will be a major element if this is to be a success.

Some of the issues that ICOS is dealing with in the area at COPA COGECA level are:

  • Looking to see what software and data bases can be used to facilitate data exchange?
  • What legal frameworks can be developed at EU level to help positive development?
  • What implications are there for ownership, privacy and intellectual rights?
  • How can we facilitate access to information to promote technical development and profitability growth at farm and coop level?
  • How do we ensure farmers and their cooperatives are fairly treated in terms of exchanging data with bigger companies?

We look forward in playing a part in ensuring that this data revolution can be a force for good for our industry.

 By Conor Mulvihill

European Affairs Executive