Q&A with Nils Zehner Swiss Future Farm at the FarmDemo Conference


Nils Zehner, Agricultural Engineer at AGCO International (Switzerland) and Operating Team member of the Swiss Future Farm, was one of the speakers of the FarmDemo Conference, that took place on the 21st of May in Brussels.

The FarmDemo Conference was organised by the Horizon 2020 projects PLAID, AgriDemo F2F and NEFERTITI to gather different actors, such as farmers, advisors, researchers, industry representatives and policy-makers, for discussing on the added-value of on-farm demonstration. The result was a full day of inspiring speeches and interesting discussions focused on how on-farm demonstration can boost the innovation uptake in agriculture, the roles of the different actors involved, and the best practices to improve the peer-to-peer learning and the technological transfer.

Speakers from different backgrounds and sectors joined the discussion: farmers, advisors, researchers, policy makers, the European Commission, and the agricultural manufacturers, too!

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Nils Zehner presented the Swiss Future Farm www.swissfuturefarm.ch, a demonstration site for Precision Agriculture, recently launched by AGCO Corporation in collaboration with the Swiss Agricultural Vocational Training Centre (BBZ Arenenberg) and GVS Agrar. In the questions below he shares his views on the importance for ag machinery industry to run demo activities:

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1. What’s the origin of the Swiss Future Farm?

The Swiss Future Farm was founded as collaboration between partners from the agricultural industry and public research and education to build up a demonstration site for Smart Farming technologies in a real life farming environment.

2. Who are the partners involved? What is your role as private company / technology provider?

The Swiss Future Farm is a public-private partnership between the industry partners AGCO and GVS Agrar, and the Agricultural Education and Advisory Center BBZ Arenenberg. AGCO as a technology provider enables access to the latest state of Smart Farming solutions in their portfolio for deployment and demonstration as part of the farm and field operations.

3. Why it is so important to demonstrate precision farming technologies?

The functionality and components of Precision Farming technologies need to be demonstrated in a real farming operation to make them better accessible, tangible and understandable to farmers. Application in a farming environment enables the generate experiences and recommendations that can be shared with interested stakeholders. Field trials are set up to provide a ground truth and to show the benefits of Precision Agriculture in an hands-on approach

4. Are you getting feedback from the farming community (positive or not)? Do you think this is an example that should be replicated in other places in Europe? Do you think that projects such as NEFERTITI could help in doing so?

Swiss Future Farm has received lots of positive feedback for the innovative collaboration of industry partners and an educational institution, that enables knowledge transfer on the latest stage of Precision Agriculture technologies for a broad range of educational programs, workshops, and trainings for manifold stakeholders in the agricultural sector. This approach is suitable to be replicated in other places in Europe, in order to ensure close accessibility and to demonstrate the benefits of Precision Agriculture under regional and local conditions that are representative and replicable for interested farmers in their own farming enterprises. Initiatives such as the NEFERTITI project can render a valuable contribution to set up project collaborations by bringing together suitable partners in the respective regions.

5. In one sentence, what’s for you the most positive value of these kind of initiatives?

For farmers investigating new opportunities for their farming operations, seeing is believing, and practical farm demonstrations that are representative and replicable under local conditions are key to fulfil this requirement.