Hungary: Precision Agriculture, the Rubik’s Cube of Farming

Hungarian and Dutch precision farming solutions on display – Report from ECPA 2021

Corné Kempenaar and András Börcsök at the Netherlands Embassy panel
©ECPA 2021
Corné Kempenaar and András Börcsök at the Netherlands Embassy panel

As a testament to the mercurial weather brought about by the changing climate, after a weeks-long dry spell, Budapest was hit by a colossal thunderstorm last Monday. This however, did not deter the international professionals searching for the Ludovika Campus of the National University of Public Service, who came for an important scientific conference.

The researchers, business heads, stakeholders from public administration, the private sector and academia who braved the storm were all gathering for the 13th annual European Conference on Precision Agriculture  held this year in Budapest, Hungary.

Because of the uncertainty caused by the ongoing pandemic, while participants came from multiple countries, the conference (and as a part of it, a precision farming expo) was organized as a hybrid event, with international guests and speakers logging in from Hungary through the Netherlands to the United States.

The event was launched on Monday with an opening ceremony and keynote speeches.

In his opening speech, Agricultural Attaché of the Netherlands Geert Kits Nieuwenkamp talked about the golden triangle of the Dutch approach to agriculture, and how this model needs to be expanded into a rectangle, so that aside from the government, science and businesses, NGOs should be counted as its fourth focal point. Mr. Nieuwenkamp commented that precision agriculture really is a rectangle – Or better yet, a Rubik’s cube that you have to continuously twist, tweak and turn in order to solve the constant challenges, and get the best results from the components.

Agriculture Councillor Mr. Nieuwenkamp delivering his opening speech
©ECPA 2021
Agriculture Councillor Mr. Nieuwenkamp delivering his opening speech

In the afternoon, an interesting panel was hosted by the agriculture office of the Netherlands Embassy where participants of the conference could meet Corné Kempenaar, Senior Researcher at the Wageningen University and András Börcsök, owner and head of the company Bugaci Aranykalász Zrt for a live Q&A session.

Mr. Kempenaar explained that precision agriculture started in the 2000s in the Netherlands and that potato growers, eager to implement new technologies were the first pioneers of the Dutch precision farming trend. According to Mr. Kempenaar, awareness raising isn’t enough – Farmers have to see with their own eyes that their neighbors are also employing the new technologies to be convinced.

Based on his experience with the Hungarian counterparts of the Dutch farmers, Mr. Börcsök also agreed that growers will only invest in technological improvement if the investment is financially beneficial.

Mr. Börcsök spent years in the United States – Where he not only witnessed new technologies in action but also the entrepreneurial spirit of American farmers. Mr. Börcsök also noted that despite popular belief, precision farming isn’t drastically more investment-heavy than traditional farming methods, highlighting that with the currently accessible technologies, even a little older, second-hand equipment can be upgraded with a little modification using the Internet of Things.

The two speakers agreed that transitioning into precision agriculture can be a bumpy road – Which is true for the Netherlands as much as it is for Hungary. However, with the proper awareness raising and the spreading of best practices, there is a way to win over the farmers.

Hungary's leading popular science magazine, Qubit also covered the event - Their report (in Hungarian language) can be found here.