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From barn to field:

AI is an issue on almost every second farm in Germany

In a study on the digitalization of agriculture presented by the digital association Bitkom and the DLG, 4 out of 5 farms stated that digitalization would enable more environmentally friendly production. More and more farms are using digital technologies and processes.

Whether for intelligent field irrigation, animal behavior analysis in the barn or data-based decision support during sowing – agriculture is on the brink of an AI revolution. Almost half of farms in Germany (47%) are currently looking into possible applications of AI. One in ten farms (9 percent) is already using artificial intelligence, while a further 38 percent are planning or discussing this. The larger the farm, the more intensive the use of and involvement with AI: while only 27% of farms with 20 to 49 hectares are using, planning or discussing the use of AI, the figure is 38% among farms with 50 to 99 hectares and as high as 52% among large farms with 99 hectares or more. These are the results of a representative survey of 500 agricultural businesses presented today by Bitkom and the German Agricultural Society (DLG).

"Agriculture is one of the pioneers of AI and is ahead of most other sectors. AI can massively reduce the workload on farms, leaving farmers more time for other tasks."

Dr. Bernhard Rohleder, Bitkom Managing Director 

"Agriculture is one of the pioneers of AI and is ahead of most other sectors. AI can massively reduce the workload on farms, leaving farmers more time for other tasks. Smaller farms in particular should make greater use of the opportunities offered by AI," says Bitkom Managing Director Dr. Bernhard Rohleder. DLG Vice President Prof. Dr. Till Meinel, Institute for Construction and Agricultural Machinery Technology, Cologne (IBL), emphasizes: "The use of AI is not a trend, but increasingly an absolute necessity due to the diverse burdens on farm managers."


Greatest potential for AI is seen in climate and weather forecasts

The greatest potential for the use of AI in agriculture is seen in forecasts and crop protection, but also in office work: 54% of farms that already use, plan or discuss the use of AI do so for climate and weather forecasts, 36% for market analyses or price forecasts, and 28% each for harvest and production planning or yield forecasts. 46% of farms that use, plan or discuss the use of AI want to improve crop protection, for example by diagnosing diseases, and 20% want to improve health monitoring in livestock farming. However, AI is also being planned, discussed or already used outside the barn and field, with 4 out of 10 farms (39%) using it for everyday office work such as administrative activities. Meinel: "Taking a closer look early on solves many problems right from the start, so it is already a great help in practice if a digital tool only points out that a problem could arise. These functions already exist."


Large majority see digitalization as an opportunity for their own business

In general, a large majority (79%) of farmers see digitalization as an opportunity for their business. Only 15 percent see it as a risk, while for 6 percent digitalization has no impact on their business. The greatest advantages that farmers personally perceive on their farms as a result of digital applications are time savings (69%) and greater efficiency in production (61%), followed by physical relief (57%).

However, farms also have high hopes for the future of the sector as a whole in terms of digital solutions to make agricultural production both more sustainable and more efficient: 80% are convinced that digital technologies will enable them to make agricultural production more environmentally friendly. "High-quality, environmentally friendly production that is also affordable - agriculture is under pressure when it comes to food production. This can be countered with AI and digital solutions," says Rohleder.

Specifically, 91% of farmers believe that digital technologies help to save fertilizer, pesticides and other resources. 69% say they can contribute to improving animal welfare. 67% say that digital technologies can help farms reduce costs in the long term and 60% believe they can improve the quality of agricultural products. At the same time, digitalization itself is a challenge for around half (54%) of farms. Meinel: "We will have to make great efforts to integrate the use of digital tools into the education and training of farmers without neglecting the technical basics of these tools."

"This proves once again that agriculture is an industry of the future that has always been very quick to recognize and consistently use the optimization potential of new technology." 

Prof. Dr. Till Meinel, DLG Vice President

Sensors, drones, management systems: agriculture is becoming increasingly digital

The opportunities offered by digitalization are increasingly being seized. Whether sensors, robotics or digital field maps, the use of digital technologies has generally increased over the past two years: GPS-controlled agricultural machinery is the most widespread, with 69 percent already using it. Two years ago, this figure was only 58 percent. This is followed by digital field maps and cow or sow planners with 68% (2022: 63%). These are used to track breeding cycles in animal husbandry, among other things. Farm or herd management systems are now used by 46% of farms, compared to just 32% in 2022. "This proves once again that agriculture is an industry of the future that has always been very quick to recognize and consistently use the optimization potential of new technology," says Meinel.

Only fertilize or spray as much as absolutely necessary: 36 percent of farms already rely on applications for the site-specific application of fertilizers (2022: 30 percent) or 30 percent for the application of crop protection products (2022: 23 percent). Sensor technology for animal husbandry and crop production is used by 28% (2022: 22%). Predictive maintenance, for example for agricultural machinery, is used by a quarter (25%) (2022: 19%). 24% use automatic feeding systems or intelligent feeding systems (2022: 24%). Drones are also used by just under a quarter (23%), compared to 19% in 2022. 12% already use robotics (2022: 10%). A total of 90% of companies use at least one of these digital solutions. "The increasing use shows that the potential is being recognized," says Rohleder. "It doesn't have to be a completely digitalized farm. Individual digital solutions such as apps for task planning offer a low-threshold introduction to smart farming and can be a basis for gradually making farming more intelligent."


One fifth are investing this year - but high investment costs are hampering expansion

19% of the farmers want to invest in digital technologies and applications this year. By 2023, 46% of companies will already be investing. In addition, 19 percent are also planning digital investments in the coming year, and a third (33 percent) plan to invest after 2025. Rohleder: "One-off investments are often not enough; technology must be maintained and software updated in order to get the most out of the purchases. At the same time, investments in digital technologies pay for themselves quickly, and in the long term they also mean greater competitiveness."

Financing is also a problem for agricultural businesses in view of the economic challenges: When asked about the strongest obstacles to the digitalization of agriculture, most (75 percent) cite high investment costs. This is followed by concerns about more bureaucracy (61%) and insufficiently standardized interfaces and networking of systems (59%). "In order to successfully shape the digital transformation in agriculture, we not only need the courage to innovate, but also the necessary political support. Digital administrative processes on farms can help to fulfill reporting obligations more easily and quickly," says Rohleder.

However, farmers in Germany are rather dissatisfied with politics, giving the current political work on the digitalization of agriculture an average grade of only 4.7. Accordingly, half (52%) of farms complain about a lack of involvement in the planning of political measures. 51 percent cite insufficient internet coverage as one of the biggest obstacles. This is followed by concerns about a loss of data sovereignty and the high complexity of digital systems with 49% each. 47% are concerned about IT security and 41% see a lack of digital skills as an obstacle. Meinel: "What practitioners tell us is that they lack a clear, reliable framework, even in the long term. Without a reliable framework, investment and therefore innovation will be hampered."


Digital expertise: three quarters interested in further training

German farmers are definitely interested in strengthening their digital skills. A third (34%) of those surveyed have already taken part in further training on the topic of digitalization in agriculture, while a further 43% are interested in doing so. Only a quarter (24%) are not interested in such training. "Digital technologies are developing rapidly. The benefits of digital technologies for agriculture can only be fully exploited with the right know-how," says Rohleder. Meinel: "This also makes it clear that the job profile of employees in agriculture is becoming increasingly demanding."


Further images and information on the study can be found in the Bitkom e.V. press section at (in German).