Agritechnica is where the world of agriculture meets and is a great place to take the temperature of European farming. Brexit may not yet have happened but its effects have begun, the atmosphere around European and British farming could not be further apart.
While UK farmers are benefiting from a devalued currency and so have a little bit of cash, they are also very uncertain of the future. They are preparing themselves for change and for loss of subsidy. They are not keen to lumber themselves with years of HP payments – and so big new machinery is off the agenda for many. Instead, they are looking at embracing change and increasing efficiency through innovation and growing for specific markets.
The European farmer has not benefited from devaluation in the same way, but neither are they facing the wall of uncertainty that we are in the UK. Really for most of them it is business as usual, bigger, more expensive kit, very much like the kit they already own on long-term hire purchase agreements.
This resulted in a rather strange show at Agritechnica 2017. Yes, there were over 450,000 visitors over the seven days and 127 countries were represented, but there was an expectation of a plethora of autonomous vehicles and new solutions, but they were not really there. Usually you can find too many venture capital funded start-ups out of California with ambitions to change the world and make a fortune in the ag sector (they almost never come back two years later). Instead, though we are finding all the building blocks for such solutions to be made becoming very well developed, the final products are either unfinished, not started or still under wraps. Agritechnica 2017 will not be remembered as an innovation show, but rather it has sown the seeds for tremendous innovation that will be seen in 2019, on its next return. Let’s hope my patience can last.