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How farm Benchmarking data help improving sustainability and productivity in agriculture?

The answer to this question can be found in a recent report written by EIP-AGRI following its latest and final Focus Group meeting where the question “How can farmers and advisers use benchmarking data and process to improve productivity and sustainability performance?” was the primary issue addressed.

The final report entitled “Benchmarking of Farm Productivity and Sustainability Performance” was drafted after two successful meetings (Madrid, December 2015; Bologna, April 2016). The main aim of the Focus group was to deeply explore and discover the potential for farmers and advisers to use farm benchmarking data and process to improve productivity and sustainability performance in agriculture. The Focus Group brought together 20 experts from 14 EU Member States from a vast range of backgrounds.

But, what exactly is benchmarking? Well, the term can be defined as: “the comparison of one´s performance with the performance of others engaged in a similar activity and learning from that experience” according to the report. The whole concept also revolves around the idea of implementing imitation and adaptation to transfer new ideas rather than relying purely on research, which typically requires more time, experimentation and testing.

The core elements of the report are largely based upon four important tasks that were previously established as the main objectives of the focus group, these were:

  • Make an inventory of existing farm assessment tools and benchmarking systems, including private ones and covering different types of farming, to describe and evaluate their characteristics and objectives and to map their use by farmers and others in different member states/organizations.
  • Review how farmers and businesses in the food value chain make use of benchmark indicators and assessment tools for decision making, for improving farm productivity and sustainability performance. Identify the usability and accessibility of individual data to the farmer and his advisers (for example on-line via computer or via smartphone). Consider innovative ways that allow farmers to use relevant data for “day-to-day” management and in more strategic decisions.
  • Analyze the use of farm performance benchmarking by advisory systems (including use of ICT, coaching, strategic management) and the evolving best practices in the use of farmers’ own data to improve the effectiveness of advisory services.
  • Identify the main problems and issues in farm benchmarking related to collection, processing, access and usability of data on the different levels (farm level, advisory and policy information support) and the operational solutions and innovative actions to tackle these issues, including how the different systems can be integrated with each other at higher levels.

To conclude, the report proposed sustainability assessment tools in benchmarking. Some major guidelines related to, for example; norms sustainability, use of tools, data collection, relevant farm indicators and assessment approaches, were also widely discussed in the meetings and included in the final report as key issues to be considered for future research. These issues are highly applicable to mountain areas and specifically to the production of mountain products and in the management of farms in highlands and mountain ranges.

Find out how sharing farm benchmarking data can help farmers to improve their farm productivity and sustainability and which data sharing models are currently available in the published report by heading over here for further specific details.

To learn more on the focus group and its planning, click here.

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26 January 2017

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