The Scottish Farmer's news and renewables editor Gordon Davidson was invited to speak at the recent All-Energy Conference in Glasgow, to give his views on what recent political developments might mean for Scottish agriculture and its diversification into renewables.

"ALL-ENERGY programme organiser, Judith Patten, bless her, briefed me to the effect that I should ‘look into my crystal ball’ and tell this event's agricultural session all about what is going to happen to Scottish farming as a result of Brexit.

I can assure you, if I actually knew that, I’d have asked Judith to schedule me onto the bigger stage where Nicola Sturgeon was speaking – quite possibly above her on the bill – and I’d have expected more than a plate of sandwiches and some fizzy water for my trouble.

As far as the shape of post-Brexit farm support is concerned, it has not yet even been decided who gets to decide what Scotland’s farm policy will be outside Europe, and I’ll not waste a second discussing who that should be, because this close to lunchtime people might start throwing stuff, including me.

What I can confirm is that the man who looks in the strongest position to shape UK farming’s future, Defra minister Michael Gove, has made several striking promises, to both the public, and the industry.

• Firstly, his version of post-Brexit farm policy is to be ‘green’… greener than the EU ever managed… green enough to convince suspicious young urban voters to vote Tory. To that end, Mr Gove just did a u-turn on neonicotinoid pesticides, ironically tipping the balance in EU member state voting towards an outright ban. The Soil Association are now firmly on Mr Gove’s speed-dial;

• But he has also promised that the total amount of cash dedicated to supporting agriculture is to match what farmers would have got under the EU budget, to 2020 and beyond, although the delivery mechanisms might be very different;

• At the same time, he has promised that food will be cheaper in the shops for consumers, largely, one imagines, because the Daily Mail demands that its readers see some financial benefit from cutting themselves free of the EU’s bent banana police.

These three pillars of Mr Gove’s imagined Brexit are not easily combined into a single structure. Even less so when Mr Fox is busy trying to secure trade deals with countries absolutely itching to sell us food that is neither green, nor underpinned by direct farm supports, but will certainly be cheap.

But let us here, with our emphasis on renewables and new technologies, be optimistic about how these circumstances will affect the sector.

As Meatloaf once sang, two out of three ain’t bad. From the man in charge, for now, there is a stated desire to be green, there is a stated desire to make substantial money available to support farm businesses, and, very much like the Scottish government realised some time ago, Westminster is coming around to the notion that there is little future in a relatively small country producing cheap food for commodity markets which can technically be served by the whole world.

Niche markets and premium products will be where it is at for everyone, except perhaps the very largest mega-farms.

So if the aforementioned Judith was to hold a gun to my head and demand my best attempt at precognition, I’d say that future UK farm support will tilt away from lowest common denominator payments for hectares farmed, or headage reared, and tilt towards the sort of Rural Development aid seen in the second pillar of the current Common Agricultural Policy.

This targeted money could and should herald in a new era of farmer entrepreneurs – Gove, and whoever follows him when he makes his inevitable next stab at becoming Prime Minister, will direct support and policy encouragement towards rural businesses that can produce high-value food to high environmental standards, using smart technologies, and renewable power sources.

It will be a good time to have good ideas, and the courage to make them happen. Maitland Mackie, who should never be far from our minds at events like this, would have loved it.

Good going milk, grain and meat production businesses will have to learn new tricks to keep themselves in the profitable top third of their respective sectors; cattle will wear smart devices that monitor their performance; perhaps economies of scale will even see sheep strutting Scotland’s hills with digital accessories, and far less will die in ditches as a result; the skies will be filled with drones and the fields will be patrolled by little robots seeking out weeds and disease and delivering tiny, perfectly aimed squirts of targeted treatment. All tech that will need charged up and networked.

But the really exciting stuff will be down to the youngsters. All my time at The Scottish Farmer, 30 years or so – and yes, you do get less for murder – there has been concern about farming’s ageing workforce, and numerous Governments have tried and failed to get that entrenched post-war generation to retire, not least by creating historically based support payments that actually had the opposite effect.

But Brexit and its various impacts will force a vast wave of retirement among the older generation, and an unprecedented shake-up will follow, as youngsters rise to take their place.

Again ironically, we can look to Europe, where old German dairy and pig units long ago harnessed their plentiful supply of organic matter to establish biodigesters and burners, creating district heating schemes, and power supply deals with local amenities, rebuilding the bridge between consumer and farmer, turning farms back into the community keystones that they once were.

How much further can post-Brexit UK farming take that trend? With targets set for a wholesale shift to electric vehicles over the next 20 years, and the fossil fuel companies really dragging their feet about installing chargers alongside their beloved pumps, who is to say that an enterprising farmer could not, with the right mix of wind, solar and battery storage, have a rank of car chargers at his rural road end?

We’ve already got a countryside dotted with farm shops, reinventing the old business of selling food direct to the public under guise of tearooms, garden centres and adventure playgrounds. Why not put in an agreeable building with good wifi and comfortable workstations, and ride the trend for office staff working from home, providing them with space, power, heat and scones, while their electric car is on trickle charge outside?

Technologically speaking, in the battery storage sector, records are being broken almost as soon as they are hit. The cost per kWh is still higher than conventional electricity, but batteries are becoming cheaper and cheaper. I’d guess that quite a lot of Mr Gove’s new green rural support cash may ultimately go towards fitting farm steadings with big batteries, which will soon be as common a sight as manky old diesel tanks. And a lot more useful to a society calibrated towards using renewable electricity.

But of course, as that old brute Donald Rumsfeldt once said, whilst looking at threats to the United States' national security, we’ve got our known knowns, our known unknowns, and our unknown unknowns. Who is to say what the next 10 years will bring in terms of societal change, consumer demand, technological advancement and governance?

Who was to know 10 years ago that businesses would come to be judged on the quality of their free wifi?

Or that sane people would actively seek out blended drinks containing spirulina? Or indeed that the UK would leave the European Union?

If the UK government does indeed make adequate money available for the modernisation and realignment of farming to greener principles – and if in turn the Scottish government is given free rein to spend it to suit our conditions – there is the potential here for a whole new infrastructure to spring up in our countryside, based on local, rather than centralised supply, of both food and energy, with farms once again much more intimately connected to the communities around them, albeit in ways that generations gone by could never have guessed at.

Scotland’s farming industry is just beginning a journey of unprecedented change. And as the mouse said to the dinosaur, as they watched the sky grow red, for the quick and the smart, times of change are always times of opportunity."