Smart farming for sustainable and cost-saving agriculture in Ireland
Read success stories from Langford, Westmeath, Carlow and Cavan
- 7 december 2019 10:00
Ireland, as a whole, is one of the best examples within the European Union for development and initiative. Developing its agriculture through European funding has made the sector thriving. According to data by the Irish Government, Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, as of 2019 the agricultural sector has grown by 73% in the last ten years and represents 10% of the total merchandising exports of the country.
These numbers are an excellent basis to continue developing this particular sector of the economy.
One of the best examples for good practices and a definite success story is the programme SmartFarming (smartfarming.ie) led by the Irish Farmers Association in collaboration with the Irish Environmental Protection Agency. It focuses on on-farm resource efficiency methods that will improve farm production and its resource management for an environmentally-friendly and cost-saving agricultural sector.
The programme is entirely voluntary and encompasses the expertise of several Irish associations that work towards analyzing and proposing solutions in eight key areas, namely soil fertility, energy, grassland, water, feed, inputs and waste, machinery and time management. The integrated approach can save time and money to the producers and increase their competitiveness.
Here are some of the success stories:
Andrew McHugh from Langford used the SmartFarming programme and managed to save €9,025 in all eight key areas of analysis but mainly in the area of grassland (€3,800) and water (€3,812). Through these savings and the in-depth analysis, McHugh`s farm increased its grass production which will lead to more milk production, made the farm more energy-efficient and increased the sustainability of the waste disposal and water usage.
Peter Maguire from Westmeath has a sheep and tillage farm that volunteered for the SmartFarming programme through which he saved €8,300 mainly in soil fertility (€7,150). The analysis and recommendations made by the specialists led to the use of alternative, organic fertilizers in order to increase the potential of the grazing pastures and renting out unused land to maximize potential.
George and Ruth Hatton have a farm in Carlow. They not only took part in the programme and achieved savings of €7,682 mainly in grassland by developing an annual reseeding plan which will increase production and take care of the soil but will also increase quality and soil fertility through a 5-year programme. A novelty in the analysis and recommendations here was the preparation of a plan with which Hatton Farm will reduce its climate change impact by 6% in fields such as grazing season, calving rate and nitrogen efficiency.
Robert Watson's farm saved €5,900 through SmartFarming in areas such as soil fertility (€4,150), grassland (€1,080) and feed, energy and machinery. These savings will add up to increase in the economic competitiveness of the farm by creating a reseeding plan, careful calculation of grazing periods and use of organic fertilizers for increased sustainability. In addition, the farm also had a plan prepared for reduction of its climate change impact by 20% in fields such as grazing season, calving rate and nitrogen efficiency.
These examples can serve other agricultural producers in the area to develop innovative methods that will reduce costs, increase productivity and be more resource-efficient. The SmartFarming programme can be also a good example for other Member States that have a highly-developed agricultural sector.
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