If there is one thing that became clear in 2020, it is that the Farm of the Future has its own dynamics. We had a project plan with diverse ambitions, most of which we managed to achieve. At the same time, 2020 also surprised us with various developments and opportunities.
They include the initiatives for other Farms of the Future in Brabant and the north of the Netherlands, the enormous amount of media attention and the stream of visitors, but also the limitations as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and the flooding of our Fieldlab in August 2020.
We expect the same dynamics for 2021: aside from our plan, unexpected opportunities and challenges will come our way. Sometimes we will have no choice but to manage them, but often we will also want to examine them more closely. A selection of our plans for 2021:
- We will develop a new plot of land with a number of climate-adaptation measures in order to ensure that we are more climate-resistant after Fieldlab is relocated at the end of 2021. We are also examining the options for the application of underground water storage, climate-adaptive drainage, and very economical irrigation. And we wouldn’t be a Farm of the Future if we only did this for ourselves. The farmers of the future have to increasingly manage periods of both extreme drought and extreme rainfall.
- We will take next steps with the Fieldlab in 2021. We will make our crop protection and fertilisation strategy even more sustainable. Despite a disappointing end of the season, we have sufficient results and insights from 2020 to improve things once again in 2021.
- Next year, we hope to make great strides with regard to better application of both mechanisation as well as technology. We also plan to scale up to fully controlled traffic farming for all activities, including harvesting, in 2021, to spare the crop beds for compaction. We will also work on robotisation: our target is for our robots to fully complete a number of cultivation operations.
- Decreasing the use of fossil fuels is also an area that has our attention. Together with Accres, we want to begin hydrogen production from the electricity that we have generated ourselves. We also want to make progress in the electrification of the sprinkler system and the use of hydrogen-powered machinery.
- The collection and management of data will be further streamlined. More and better information will be gathered about the status and the results of the system. On the one hand, we will use it for operational decisions such as whether or not to irrigate or apply crop protection. On the other hand, we will use the data to monitor the performance of the system, further optimise it, and for communication with all interested parties.
- The EFRO scheme will begin at the start of 2021. We expect a lot of interest from companies with interesting innovations and ideas which we will subsequently develop and test on Farm of the Future. We also expect that this will create a number of interesting results for practice which will create a lot of interest again.
- About that interest: we certainly hope that in 2021 we can host more people in Lelystad than was the case in 2020! Our plan is to organise at least two larger activities during which we can talk to visitors in a way that complies with the coronavirus measures. We are also looking forward to more small-scale activities in Lelystad. We will also remain active online and we will expand our activities, including those in collaboration with the Nationale Proeftuin PrecisieLandbouw (NPPL).
- We also anticipate diverse regional initiatives from new Farms of the Future. It is likely that new design projects will be set up for regional Farms of the Future in the Veenkoloniën (peat colonies) and in south-east Brabant. And who knows, perhaps more Farms of the Future will be started in 2021, ones that are not on the radar yet! We also expect that a national platform for Farms of the Future will be established in 2021. This platform will facilitate structuring and supporting the collaboration between the different Farms.
Matters that we have less control over, but that we hope will come to fruition:
- We are trying our best to create a number of connections between our innovation programme with businesses, research programmes, and platforms. This will undoubtedly lead to collaboration with a number of interesting partners. Perhaps we will be able to start a new initiative that will remove difficult barriers for future innovations.
- For 2021, we also hope that the election for the House of Representatives results in a coalition that contributes to a healthy future for agriculture in the Netherlands. There are more challenges than ever, and what we need is political and administrative leadership to outline the prospects for the Netherlands. For the farmers of the future as well, because we cannot do without them. We are ready to contribute!
We will certainly have our work cut out for us in 2021. We are looking forward to it, we will keep you posted, and we hope to meet you in 2021, hopefully in Lelystad.
We wish you a healthy and happy 2021!
Wijnand Sukkel and Pieter de Wolf