IT is becoming clear that the delivery of systems which aim to assist Scottish agriculture adapt to ‘smart farming’ techniques, will themselves have to be ‘smart’ solutions too.

The success of the recent Capital Grant Scheme, which offered highly targeted motivation to promote joint farmer/ScotGov investment in technology, machinery and know-how, to deliver efficiencies that would not only assist a better bottom line for the industry, but also help it become better equipped to fight climate change, gives the industry a steer on how the sector’s support will evolve.

That desire to equip the industry in ways that give it a real purpose to be part of the solution, rather than be a drag on environmental issues, has also been made clear by the Suckler Beef Climate Group’s well-thought out plans for how it can turn what has become a pariah industry, to a talisman of environmentally sound agricultural production. This is being seen as a pointer, also, for other sectors of the industry.

But, for help in tackling such ‘big’ issues, there also needs to be a delivery system that matches the ambition to make Scottish agriculture leaner, fitter and ‘greener’. That’s where Leidos, a global player in digital solutions which supports the Scottish Government across a number of different technology programmes, reckons that intelligent applications can be a positive to meet those ambitions, rather than a bureaucratic brake.

One of Leidos’ partners, Ronan Laffan, Head of Advisory Services at IT consultancy Version 1, said: “Technology can be used as a path to more efficient farms, that’s a given. Farmers are highly intelligent businessmen, but sometimes they need the local support systems in place to enable them to move quickly to make the most of what help can be available to them.”

Jillian Giles, Leidos’s Scottish Government Account Manager, agreed: “Agriculture is no different from many other sectors, with collaboration from key stakeholders to meet the challenge of delivering sensible, workable solutions quickly and efficiently.

“We know that many farmers have various software packages to help them plan and audit their businesses. Where our expertise lies is in making sure that their software is compatible with support systems in the future, which basically means that they won’t have to do the same things twice.”

‘Deal’ or ‘No Deal’, Brexit will still bring about huge change for farming in the UK, but this IT specialist sees this as an opportunity and not a threat to the positioning of Scottish agriculture. Properly set up, the inevitable adjustment of support for Scotland’s farmers can be dynamic and responsive to what promises to be an ever changing panorama of political influence and industry specific necessity.

In many ways, such a collaboration between industry, government and the IT specialists who help deliver on both sides of that coin, can use the data intelligently for everyone’s benefit, thus cutting red tape in the process. And, such an ability to meet changing circumstances can also be applied sector by sector and even on a region to region basis within Scotland, according to Dave Freeman, business area advisor for Ricardo Energy and Environment and a specialist in policy assessment, implementation and impact assessment.

“Flexibility is a key component for future policy, but the way to deliver that and meaningful change is an ability to translate what can sometimes be complicated language, into what farmers can easily understand. The message is definitely getting across, though, that better efficiency is good for everyone, not the least of which are benefits to the environment.

“There are definitely leaders in the industry that know where we will be in 10-15 years’ time, it’s up to policy makers and the administrators of those policies to help it meet those targets. Well thought out support will have the ability to allow the whole of the sector to be engaged in the process and follow on.”

Jillian Giles added: “It’s important that change is a collective process and one that people buy into. It needs to be fairly simple and easily understood. To take things forward, we all collectively have to iron out any bugs in the system and fix them for the future … and be seen to fix them quickly.

“Importantly, we need to listen to those people who buy in to what we’re all trying to achieve and that the industry’s voice has a say in how we deliver that change in an intelligent way.”