Smart AKIS survey: testimonials from the field
Smart AKIS is interviewing more than 200 farmers from France, Germany, Greece, Netherlands, Serbia, Spain and UK to get to know the rate of knowledge and use of smart farming technologies, as well as their unfulfilled needs and potential obstacles for the further adoption of such technologies. Here you will find the insights from one of intervewed farmers, Alain Chotard, managing “Earl du Molin” farm, with 3 hectares of vegetables and 4 000 m² of cold greenhouses, located in Morbihan county, Brittany region, France. The interview was conducted by Camille Morel, from CUMA-Ouest, Smart AKIS partner, on October 2016, who provides the following first person testimonial. « Born to be a farmer » What Alain likes best about his trade is the freedom of decision and independence which it affords. He also cares about staying close to the consumer with the direct-selling of his vegetables: « I like to feed people ». « Far from smart farming technologies » About smart technologies, Alain says that he’s « far from it », although he has a good knowledge of what exists on the market. He already attended demonstrations of follower and hoe robots. Those would be useful for him « but may need to be adapted thoroughly to the crop system ». For example, the investment in a robot may require him to adjust the number of vegetable rows in planting beds, and to rework their configuration. Such adjustments would be to the detriment of the crop diversity produced. Dependence on the collective to invest in better equipment For the equipment management, Alain also relies on the collective: he owns the major part of his material in a cuma (farmers’ cooperative where producers undertake collective investments). Therefore, he does not hesitate to join other farmers for upgrading equipment for the field crops. For instance, the cuma recently bought a fertilizer spreader with GPS. Inventive, he also occasionally builds the material he needs by himself. Recently, together with his trainee, he made a plastic mulch collector machine, that removes plastic covers from plant beds, recycles them, thereby enabling them to be used for the next crop. Meeting interesting people Once the survey is completed, Alain leads me onto his farm, enthusiastically explaining to me his cultivation processes and his joy of working with living things. For my part, on the way back, I am thinking that during these surveys I like my position as a witness of experiences, opinions, persons. They provide me with an opportunity to participate in a convivial exchange, and to learn about the technical, economical, and human aspects of the farms in the region.