Author(s): Sylvain Quiédeville & Olivier Ejderyan (FiBL, Switzerland)

A recent report completed by FiBL (Research Institute of Organic Agriculture, Switzerland) and all Living Lab (LL) coordinators, summarises possible digital futures in various contexts across the EU as well as stakeholders’ views on these potential developments. The work suggests a range of corresponding policy options to either mitigate negative impacts associated with digitalisation or to support an enhanced digital trend associated with positive impacts. 

Each Living Lab (LL) conducted stakeholder workshops in which possible future scenarios were developed in relation to the LL topic and expected future state of digitalisation. Topics were as diverse as the digitalisation of public administration in rural areas or the use of robots for weed control in organic vegetable farming. The future period targeted was the year 2031, corresponding to a time span of approximately 10 years from the time the workshops were conducted. Diverse scenarios were elaborated in each LL, including two main ones corresponding to the most plausible future situations. These typically included, in each LL, a rather positive scenario as well as a more negative scenario.

In these workshops, various policy options were considered by stakeholders across the EU, which can be clustered into the following six main thematic categories:

(1) To facilitative exchanges and debates among stakeholders and to communicate on digitalisation

In this category, some of the thoughts mentioned are for instance that policies should be developed to foster cooperation within and between countries; and to communicate on the benefits of digitalisation. 

(2) To increase expertise and skills 

This cluster is one of the most represented ones. The kinds of policy options falling into this category consist for instance of increasing expertise in urban agriculture; integrating digital specialists in teaching, consulting and agricultural journalism; promoting training on digital tools; and increasing digital innovation and competences in mountain areas.

(3) To empower stakeholders and increase acceptance

This category mainly refers to supporting localised food systems. Two sorts of examples are to support food community-building, as well as to create conditions for digital acceptance by the local population and in public administration. Other possibilities belonging to this category are, among others, to favour digital inclusion and to encourage bottom-up open innovation in agriculture.

(4) To support rural areas

In this cluster, the main focus is on bridging the digital gap between urban and rural areas. It includes some rather specific options like encouraging combinations of distance work and multi-local living style, as well as supporting the younger-age population to move into and stay in rural crofting areas.  

(5) To enhance the institutional environment and legal framework

Some options associated with institutional issues are to create a suitable environment allowing for more open innovation, as well as to encourage public-private financial instruments to boost the adoption of digital tools. Other considerations are related to the legal framework, including the development of a suitable framework to regulate data security and data sovereignty but also to promote data sharing and transparency on the rules.

(6)  To improve the applicability and access to digital tools

This category is quite general and includes some policy options aiming for instance at making the digital tools easier to use and more affordable for small and medium farmers, as well as improving economic conditions for digitalisation. 

The above categories only present succinctly the range of options dedicated primarily to policy-makers. However, the aim of the Policy Briefs should not be only to inform policy-makers for digitalising agriculture as such, but also to make the whole digitalization process more sustainable and respectful of various stakeholders’ viewpoints. Particularly, the policy options should not be only supporting a rapid and large-scale development, but also allow for slower, smaller and/or cheaper developments, depending on the context.

The mentioned work consists of a compilation of 21 Policy Briefs representing each LL. These Policy Briefs are available here: 

  1. Oosterwold (NL)Towards urban agriculture in 2030
  2. Central Ostrobothnia (FI)Bioeconomy and digitalisation in Finland
  3. Rhineland-Palatinate (DE)Digital public administrations for future-proof rural regions
  4. Rural Poland (PL)Geodesign in Rural Poland
  5. Latvia (LV)Beef farmers and digital marketing
  6. Lake Constance (DE)Digitalisation of fruit production
  7. Austria (AT)European Rounwood Traceability
  8. North Great Plain (HU) – Economic and social impacts in rural areas
  9. Switzerland (CH)Weed control in Swiss organic vegetable farming
  10. Northern Greece (GR) – Digital services for rural and farmer communities
  11. Trikala (GR)Sustainable water management practices
  12. Adriatic Region (HR)Reviving the rural areas  by 2030
  13. Apennine Region (IT)Digitalisation and wood-energy traceability in Italy
  14. Tuscany (IT)Digitalisation of ordinary land management in rural areas with mountain landscape
  15. Andalucia (ES)Digitalisation in wildfires management
  16. Aragon (ES)A key decade in terms of digitalisation for the Maestrazgo and Gúdar-Javalambre rural areas
  17. New Aquitaine (FR)Digitalisation of wine production in France
  18. Burgundy-Franche-Comté (FR)Digital tools to help reduce agricultural inputs
  19. Scotland (GB) –  Digitalisation in Scottish crofting communities
  20. West Flanders (BE)Digilisation in Flemish livestock farming
  21. Cloughjordan (IE)Supply chains and local livelihoods