Farmers mustn’t be left behind in the race for more technological and efficient ways of producing food, the NFU has warned.
Continued investment in agri-tech was vital to ensure farmers had the tools needed to innovate and grow, said NFU president Meurig Raymond.
But the best agricultural knowledge must be made available to all farmers if they were to become more efficient and better-able to manage market volatility, he added.
Access to agri-tech would help farmers win the battle to become more competitive, resilient and profitable, said Mr Raymond.
“Reaping the benefits of agri-tech shouldn’t be restricted to farmers who are fortunate enough,” he told the Agri-Tech East conference in Cambridge.
“All of us feel the pressures of rising costs, extreme weather, supply chain expectations, volatility, recession and regulation,” said Mr Raymond.
The NFU was calling on the government to increase investment in agri-science, with a focus on applied research and knowledge exchange.
“[The government’s] continued support for the Agri-Tech Strategy is crucial for the sector,” Mr Raymond told conference delegates on Wednesday (11 November).
Agri-tech would enable farmers to reduce the UK’s trade deficit, reduce wastage, better manage volatility and contribute to a fair, transparent and functioning supply chain.
“All this will give farmers the confidence to invest.”
Mr Raymond said the industry also needed science to understand how their stewardship efforts were helping the environment.
“This is key to the industry’s resilience to environmental challenges,” he added.
Mr Raymond’s comments came as farm minister George Eustice said technological innovation was key to helping farmers become more resilient and profitable.
Agri-tech projects supported by the government’s £160m agri-tech strategy would help farmers grow and sell more, he said.
Mr Eustice was speaking on the same day as Mr Raymond but 250 miles away at the Northern Farming Conference, Hexham, Northumberland.
“Although there has been great pressure on farm incomes over the past 12 months, I believe the industry has a good future,” he said.
“Technological advances will help British farmers improve their productivity and make the industry more resilient and better placed to deal with pests and diseases.”