“Precision farming is required for the renewal of Hungary’s agriculture. Agricultural digitalisation promotes stability and predictability in food production and increases efficiency, thus improving competitiveness and higher income levels”, Minister of Agriculture István Nagy said at the opening ceremony of the PREGA conference and exhibition.

The two-day event organised by Agroinform.hu, the National Chamber of Agriculture (NAK) and the Agricultural Marketing Centre (AMC) is focused on precision farming. The Minister emphasised that the use of modern technologies can lay the foundations for successful and knowledge-based rural communities.

The Government is striving for location-specific farming that minimises the drain on the environment, soil and water. Hence the launch of the Digital Welfare program and the compilation of a Digital Agricultural Strategy. The latter calls for the dissemination of new technologies as well as information technology and communication systems for producers, agricultural experts and the officials of the supervising authorities, allowing these stakeholders to obtain the complex knowledge required for their application.

According to Mr. Nagy, we must prepare for a new world of digitalisation where fewer but more highly qualified workers will be needed. Tapping into the economic development potential offered by public administration systems also remains an objective. A so-called digital cost reduction drive in agriculture is aimed at granting free access to as many central databases as possible, simplifying reporting to Hungarian authorities and the European Union, and speeding up decision-making. A wealth of information is already available to farmers, and the Government intends to enable them to take advantage of it.

The Minister emphasised that the rural economy and its resources need to be preserved but also renewed. This is crucial for the future of the entire nation. Innovation must be harmonised with conventional, small-scale rural development based on local needs. Mr. Nagy added that this year’s PREGA exhibition will give further impetus to the discovery and use of innovative solutions and technologies.

As NAK chairman Balázs Győrffy pointed out, demand for agricultural products will rise dynamically in the coming decades. Agriculture will gain importance as nine billion people will have to be fed within little more than 30 years. The area of arable land can only be increased minimally, so new resources will need to be found, and the existing resources will have to be utilised in a more sustainable manner. According to the chairman of the chamber of agriculture, the solution is precision farming, which is the only way to simultaneously ensure sustainability and competitiveness.

Csaba Gyuricza, Director General of the National Agricultural Research and Innovation Centre (NAIK) explained: precision farming and digital technologies are important tools for an increased agricultural output, and they also serve competitiveness and environmental sustainability. “It’s not the cost of transition to precision farming that’s significant, but rather the losses caused by its absence year by year”, he said.

Western European experts claim that precision farming can increase profitability in crop cultivation by the equivalent of 25-30 thousand forints per hectare each year. In fact, the profit increase in Hungary could be much higher, 65-70 thousand forints per hectare per year, because the basis values are lower than in West Europe. Consequently, the production value could go up by HUF 300-350 billion in crop production alone, which is almost as much as the current annual land-based or animal stock-based subsidies.

Bence Bolyki, manager of the agroinform.hu portal and chief organiser of the event, said that over one thousand participants had indicated their intention to attend this year’s PREGA conference. More than 100 presentations were held about the theory and practice of precision farming. Several modern applications were demonstrated, for example within the areas of land cultivation, plant protection, water management, and spatial information systems. More than 40 exhibitors showcased their products and novelties, Mr. Bolyki said in closing.