The aim of the H2020 project INNOSETA (Accelerating Innovative practices for Spraying Equipment, Training and Advising in European agriculture through the mobilization of Agricultural Knowledge and Innovation Systems) is to set-up a Thematic Network on “Innovative Spraying Equipment, Training and Advising” designed for the effective exchange between researchers, industry, extension services and farming community. This network will link directly applicable research and commercial solutions and grassroots level needs and innovative ideas thus contributing to close the research and innovation divide in this area. Among others, the INNOSETA project aims at assessing end-users’ needs and interests and at identifying the factors that influence farmers’ adoption and diffusion of innovative spraying technologies.
In order to attain such an aim a farmer’s survey along with experts’ interviews were carried out.
Farmers’ survey: Sampling rationale and structure
The survey covered 7 different European hubs: France, Greece, Italy, The Netherlands and Belgium, Poland, Spain, and Sweden. The cropping systems examined within each regional hub differed according to regional specificities (Table 1)
Table 1. Cropping systems per hub.
|Spain||Orchards, Vineyards, Greenhouses|
|Italy||Orchards, Vineyards, Cereals|
|France||Orchards, Vineyards, Cereals|
|Greece||Orchards, Vineyards, Greenhouses|
|The Netherlands & Belgium||Cereals, Vegetables, Greenhouses|
|Sweden||Cereals, Vegetables, Orchards|
|Poland||Cereals, Vegetables, Orchards|
Based on extensive literature review, we hypothesized that by using farm size as the criterion for the selection of farms/farmers, we would be able to explore a broad spectrum of farming realities. Therefore, in the first place, the number of farms/farmers was determined for each cropping system per country using the size classes (ha) found in EUROSTAT 2013 data sets. The initial sample was then adjusted in order to include enough farms/farmers (re: data analysis) in the least represented cropping systems.
The survey took place from mid-October 2018 till mid-January 2019 and was based on a structured questionnaire comprising both close and open-ended questions. A total of 348 questionnaires were collected, including both adopters and non-adopters (58.6% and 41.4% of the sample, respectively.
Overall 35 interviews with experts from the 8 European countries involved in the project were conducted. Emphasis was given to the expert groups (Research (9), Industry (9) and Advisors (9) vis-à-vis Farmers (3) as farmers were specifically targeted through the survey.
Following the most important findings of farmers’ survey and expert’s interviews are briefly presented. As far as the farmers’ survey is concerned the results presented here focus on the notable differences between adopters and non-adopters of innovatory spraying equipment.
The 1st and 2nd most popular innovative technologies (spraying equipment) adopted by farmers (adopters), as well as the least adopted ones are presented in Table 2.
Table 2: Most and least adopted innovative spraying technologies/equipment
|Arable/Open field vegetables||%||Orchards/Vineyards||%||Greenhouses||%|
|1st most adopted||Drift reducing nozzles||42%||Drift reducing nozzles||48%||Lance with pressure control device||43%|
|2nd most adopted||GPS, spray computers and individual spray boom section/nozzle control||28%||Devices for automated/manual air volume adjustment||26%||Manually pulled vertical/horizontal spray booms||22%|
|Least adopted||Autonomous sprayers||0%||Shielded/Tunnel sprayers-Target detection systems||3%||Lance with nozzle holder for ISO/drift reducing nozzles||4%|
Adopters’ opinions on their innovative spraying equipment are favorable. For the great majority of them (>90%) their innovative equipment are easy to work with, reliable and economically justified. Nevertheless, 2 out of 5 adopters stated that their innovative equipment needs a lot of maintenance.
When it comes to the characteristics of spraying equipment that would make them more relevant to farmers’ needs, adopters put more emphasis on the ease of use and the availability of technical support than non-adopters.
Adopters’ most important source of information on buying innovative spraying equipment is sprayers’ manufacturers/dealers followed by farmer’s own experience, other farmers and private advisors. Additionally, they rely more on the industry (sprayer manufacturers/local dealers) regarding knowledge/know-how on the use and operation of their spraying equipment. In general, adopters visit agricultural fairs, field days/demonstrations, or exhibitions more often than non-adopters.
Adopters, as compared to non-adopters, are overall more likely to be:
Full-time farmers, more satisfied from farming, located in plain areas as well as to have attended a training course in spraying machinery.
They are stronger believers in the capability of technology to improve farming and to help them to comply with regulations as well as that technology can support farmers’ work recognition by the public than non-adopters. Also, they tend to be the first in their social circle of friends and relatives to know about and buy new machinery/technology.
According to non-adopters, the main reasons for not having adopted innovate spraying equipment are that their land is too small and equipment is not affordable. Other reasons referred to by non-adopters are that they do not foresee future profit benefits, doubt the availability of technical assistance when needed as well as equipment long term efficiency, non compatibility with farm’s technology, and the fact that innovative equipment are too complicated to understand its use/to work with it.
With respect to the criteria for buying/choosing spraying equipment, economic considerations are more important for non-adopters, while the reduction of PPP inputs and environmental protection are less important as compared to adopters.
With reference to the knowledge/know-how on the use and operation of their spraying equipment, adopters seem to rely more in their own experience.
Non adopters are more likely to be:
Involved in farming due to family tradition and, on the other hand, less dependent on agriculture in terms of the contribution of agriculture into the family income. Furthermore, they tend to wait to buy new things, until they know that others have positive experiences with them and prefer to have some experience with something before they buy it. Non adopters consider that relevant training is a prerequisite for the adoption of innovative spraying equipment.
The sources of information non adopters would trust before buying innovative spraying equipment are mainly demonstrations, followed by the use of it by other farmers, a cost-benefit analysis tailored to their farm as well as a personal trial or conversation with someone with advisory capacity.
According to the interviewed farmers, the most important reasons to apply spray drift reduction techniques are to increase the effectiveness of PPP applications, to save money through the reduction of PPP and to reduce environmental impact.
The most important source of knowledge regarding PPP application (when, how much, precautionary measures, etc.) are PPP dealers followed by farmer’s own experience and private advisors.
The majority of farmers (>90%) said that they take into account wind speed and temperature during application. However, this percentage is decreased when it comes to wind direction (81%) and humidity (64%).
Incentives for investing in something new
According to the non-adopters, the main reasons to invest in something new are that it is economically justified (i.e. expectations for increased profit, justified cost/benefit ratio, reduction of production costs), that their own equipment is damaged/too old as well as spray efficacy and work comfort.
The majority of non-adopters claim that they would buy innovative spraying equipment if they would have access to a subsidy as well as to relevant training. On the other hand, less than 1/5 of adopters stated that a specific subsidy gave them the opportunity to invest in their innovative equipment.
Overall, 2 out of 3 farmers ask for some kind of financial support, mostly subsidization in order to buy innovative spraying equipment. Similar incentives concern tax reductions, the reduction of equipment prices, higher/fair prices for their produces, increased support for small-scale farms, and targeting available support onto certified and/or high precision equipment.
Additionally, 1 out of 10 farmers considers that the change of regulations (i.e. more strict inspections, compulsory use of Low Drift Nozzles and the like) as well as of the characteristics of the new spraying equipment (especially spraying efficacy and ease of use) would be appropriate incentives to facilitate the adoption of innovative spraying equipment,
On their part, the interviewed experts argue in favor of innovative spraying equipment due to their efficiency and thus environmental and economic benefits; safety and comfort of the operator and ease-of-use of such equipment are also considered important.
On the other hand, they underline the high initial (purchase) costs of such equipment as well as their complexity, thus the need to provide farmers with continuous training and technical support. The technical limitations/ vulnerability of such advanced, complex technology is also noticed.
Experts agree with farmers for the need for targeted subsidization (certified machinery, best management practices, possibly more favorable for smaller farms). However, they claim that subsidies should not be the sole measure taken; stricter legislation and its enforcement, information campaigns, farmers’ training and technical support by independent extension/advisory services are equally important. Attention should be also given to farmers’ demand for the better balance between environmental and agronomic performance of new technologies (spraying machinery and PPP).
Beyond the abovementioned findings, it is important to highlight the lack of functional Agricultural Knowledge and Innovation Systems (AKIS)/ innovation platforms regarding spraying technologies. This, in turn, results in gaps which, although rather known to the actors concerned, are not currently bridged. According to the research carried out in the framework of INNOSETA, extension/advisory services seem to be in the best position (as compared to the other actors) to play an intermediation role, i.e. to negotiate with other actors the building of the relevant AKIS network.
 In Flanders the use of at least 50% drift reducing nozzles is mandatory; therefore, farmers who only have 50% drift reducing nozzles (and no other innovative equipment) were classified as non-adopters. In Sweden farmers who have (in order to comply with legislation) but do not use classified injector nozzles (and no other innovative equipment) are classified as non-adopters.