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Farming 4.0 – personnel bottlenecks
Farmer 4.0: what competencies are required? Agriculture is facing great human resources challenges
Farmers must address many challenges to run an effective and successful business. Yields can be reduced and limited to a certain extent by a number of factors (prices, droughts, etc.). Added to this, there is the overall work load, the optimization of the quantities of pesticides used and the promotion of animal health, as well as demands from the State and the consumer for greater transparency. In larger farms, it is simply not possible to cope with all this using conventional equipment alone. Here, networked work processes are required to unite all elements of the process.
Much like in industry, it requires networking and automation, as well as communication of the individual process steps; it makes sense to have an integrated system solution that enables efficient economies.
The development of the ‘digital farm’ is gathering pace
Experts now speak of agriculture as a pioneer of Industry 4.0.
Computer-controlled and -monitored processes in the barn as well as out on the fields, the growing proliferation of smartphones, tablets and farm equipment with intelligent sensors and satellite technology provide a flood of data in modern agricultural operations. The processing and networking of this data should ultimately support the management of farms and make production processes more efficient and also more environmentally friendly. Farming 4.0 could make it possible to carry out even regulatory measures, such as reporting and documentation requirements, far more easily or even render them practically obsolete.
The success of the digital transformation in the agricultural sector, however, also depends significantly on whether farm managers can get their staff on board. It is sometimes questionable as to whether there are sufficient numbers of qualified employees that can meet these requirements. The correlation is unfortunately often underestimated. There are very few farmers who really understand what technical skills are required to meet the new challenges.
Farming 4.0 can only be successful if those in charge are aware from the start who has which expertise and which process knowledge needs to be improved when it comes to integrating innovations and networking in everyday agricultural work and using them effectively. Workday routines and also procedures are changing significantly due to interaction with intelligent machines and increasing automation.
Holistic thinking is already a proven approach in agriculture
Basically, a pronounced understanding for all agricultural issues and their interdependencies must exist to make Farming 4.0 a success.
Digitisation and networking in agriculture can be understood ultimately as a modern expression of ideals such as “holistic thinking”. The guarantee for sustainably successful farming was always more “thinking in process chains” rather than the optimisation of limited individual production factors. It is in the nature of agriculture, to realign the entire production system throughout the year.
Nowadays, even the largest agricultural machines can be guided automatically over the field at an accuracy of two to three centimetres. In addition, the machines can also automatically adapt their working speed to the changing conditions. A difficult challenge for agriculture, which sets it apart clearly from industry, is the fact that agriculture takes place in nature where it is not possible to standardise or even ‘digitise’ many factors. Rain, temperature, too wet or too dry soil, sudden mass occurrences of insects or problematic weeds – none of these can be standardised and a farmer needs to face new challenges every day.
The most important key skills for professionals in farming 4.0
- Strong understanding of agriculture (trends, competitive factors, business strategies)
- Extensive experience in the agricultural sector
- Good mix of analytical skills and creativity
- Interdisciplinary skills
- IT skills
In agriculture, too, the need for ‘lifelong learning’ is increasing
On the way to farming 4.0, farmers need to prepare themselves and their employees. Diverse opportunities for further education are required and a labour organisation which promotes learning. Academic and professional education and training must evolve – just like in industry. This is the only way to guarantee that coming needs in the evolving agricultural sector can be met. This change must also be taken into account in education and in social recognition.
“Farming 4.0 means extended areas of responsibility and also changed fields of activity for a large portion of the agricultural industry. The employees will no longer be responsible solely for routine agricultural tasks or a particular machine. To a certain extent, they must oversee the entire production process up to the end user and system provider. For these partially new fields of activity, employees must be correspondingly qualified and prepared or new employees need to be brought on board. They need other, additional expertise that no longer has much in common with traditional agriculture,” explains Hans-Gerd Birlenberg, BU Manager Agribusiness & Distribution, Hager Unternehmensberatung.
Hans-Gerd Birlenberg is our Business Unit Manager for Agribusiness and Distribution.
Since graduating in business administration in Cologne, Hans-Gerd Birlenberg has filled a number of senior management positions, most recently as the CEO of a leading agricultural company, where he played a pivotal role in shaping the company’s growth and development. For several years, he has been a personnel consultant in the Executive Search segment with both a local and international focus. With his in-depth knowledge of the industry, he now advises Hager Unternehmensberatung clients on how to best ll their management and specialist positions.
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