„You either go with the times or else in time, you'll have to go”: Report from the NL workshop at PREGA 2022 in Budapest

The Dutch workshop featured professionals from both countries and sparked lively discussion.

The three panelists at the conference
Beeld: ©Agroinform.hu
The three panelists of the workshop: Jacob van den Borne, (CEO, Van Den Borne Aardappelen), András Börcsök, (CEO, Bugaci Aranykalász Zrt.), and Károly Bűdi (CEO, Agro-tár Kft.)

On May 12, in the Aquaworld Hotel at the edge of Budapest, a small crowd gathered together in a conference hall with a view of the dark green mountains and emerald forests in the northern outskirts of the Hungarian capitol. This crowd of business heads and representatives, professors, farm managers, researchers, analysts and other experts in precision agriculture and the adjacent fields came for a workshop titled Precision Farming; Fiction to Fact, an interactive session organized by the Netherlands Embassy in Hungary at the PREGA conference, Hungary’s largest annual gathering of agricultural practitioners active in precision agriculture.

The workshop, which was launched by an opening speech from H. E. Désirée Bonis, Ambassador of the Netherlands to Hungary, focused on the practical exchange of information, best practices and experiences between Hungarian farmers and their Dutch counterparts. In her opening remarks, Ambassador Bonis talked about the fact that both Hungary, and the Netherlands, are countries with strong historical traditions in agriculture, with the potential to feed more than their respective populations. The Ambassador also remarked that with the challenges our economy faces year after year, including climate change and lately, the Russian aggression against Ukraine, farmers everywhere are facing new hardships, which call for newer and better solutions to remain sustainable and profitable.

The panelists of the event were Jacob van den Borne, (CEO, Van Den Borne Aardappelen), András Börcsök, (CEO, Bugaci Aranykalász Zrt.), and Károly Bűdi (CEO, Agro-tár Kft.).

The three panelists briefly shared their views and experiences in four thematic areas in precision farming: The accessibility of precision tech for smallholders and family farms; the usability of these technologies and ICT equipment by older generations; the benefits of precision farming on ecology versus profitability; and the possible roles governments can play in furthering the uptake of precision farming.

After brief talk panels, all four topics were discussed with the audience. This started with a poll: Participants were asked to provide their opinion on these four topics. The poll was repeated after the last panel and the changes in the distribution of the answers speaks for itself:

Workshop poll statistics
Beeld: ©Netherlands Embassy Hungary

In the first segment, the experts discussed that although separated by thousands of kilometers, both Hungarian, and Dutch farmers, had the same everyday experience: Precision tech and ICT are not just futuristic props for high-end large holdings, but an everyday necessity for farmers aiming to keep in line with the latest regulations in greening, increasing efficiency, and staying profitable. After some discussion, the participants agreed that there is no investment threshold to enter precision farming. „You either go with the times, or else, in time you have to go,” concluded Mr. Bűdi, and both the experts, and the audience agreed that effective education is the key to implementing the digital transformation of the agricultural economy.

Ambassador Bonis delivering her opening remarks at a stand in front of a roll-up banner featuring the coat of arms of the Netherlands.
Beeld: ©Agroinform.hu
H. E. Désirée Bonis, Ambassador of the Netherlands to Hungary, delivers her opening speech.

This led to a sparkling debate in the second segment on the possibility to teach older generations the usage of ICT equipment. The consensus was that with agriculture losing its attractiveness in the eyes of younger generations, for it to have an allure as a viable career path for young people, it is cardinal that agriculture be open to the integration of the latest in information and computation technology. The participants also agreed that the usage of digital infrastructure would help transfer knowledge to the next generation of farmers.

On the topic of whether precision agriculture is mainly focuses on ecology and environmental protection, or rather, the boosting of the efficiency and profitability of farming, there was an interesting discourse between researchers and practitioners. Researchers in the audience warned against assuming that input reduction would lead to proportional environmental benefits. In the end, the participants remained somewhat divided on the priorities of precision farming, however, there was no questioning whether this paradigm benefited both.

Counsellor van Ginneken delivering his closing remarks at a stand next to the roll-up that features the coat of arms of the Netherlands.
Beeld: ©Agroinform.hu
Agriculture Counsellor Koen van Ginneken of the Netherlands Embassy in Hungary, giving closing remarks.

The role of government also sparked an interesting discussion in which both the speakers and the audience discussed various possibilities on how governments could step in to create the necessary frameworks, the necessary incentives, flexible enough regulations and guiding policies for the seamless digitalization of modern agriculture. It was generally agreed that governments should do more than just play the part of the subsidy-dispersal body.

The workshop was closed by the final remarks of Koen van Ginneken, Agricultural Counsellor at the Netherlands Embassy in Hungary, who concluded that the digitalization of agriculture is now universally praised as a welcome development and that although the context and the local situation in Hungary and the Netherlands are different, the farmers in both countries who work in the precision farming field day to day seem to run into the same issues, and think of similar best practices to handle them. This means that it is beneficial to build partnerships in order to keep exchanging experiences and solutions between the two countries.

The Precision Farming; Fiction to Fact workshop was the latest in a series of interactive sessions (both online and offline) organized by the Agriculture Office of the Netherlands Embassy in Hungary.

For upcoming sessions, conferences and activities by the Agriculture Office, follow our updates on Agroberichten Buitenland Hungary.


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A trader's stand in a market hall in Budapest, Hungary
Beeld: ©Zoltán Szászi

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