Farmers in some countries are praised as “the guardians of nature”, but in others are seen as the “destroyers of nature” which, according to the chief executive officer (CEO) of Lely, highlights the challenge facing the sector.
Andre van Troost said farming and farmers are now a part of diverse discussion, that varies from country to country.
Lely, the Dutch family owned business, marks its 75th anniversary in business this year.
Speaking at an event – Vision Farm of the Future 2035 – to mark this anniversary at the Lely headquarters in Maassluis, in the Netherlands, van Troost told Agriland that farmers and society in general “need to adapt to survive”.
At the Vision Farm of the Future event the Lely CEO looked back on the company’s history and to its future as he highlighted a number of new products that are set to be introduced to the market.
He believes there is a bright outlook for dairy consumption, but he also said that consumers are interested in ensuring that their food is produced in a sustainable way.
The Lely CEO said: “We see many heated discussions going on worldwide, particularly in western Europe – farmers are also having to deal with stricter regulations.
“We must and cannot ignore this, because it is a fact that consumers, governments, environmental organisation and many other stakeholders will focus more and more on farms impact to society.”
He said that farmers worldwide have not only done what they were asked to do, but more, and stressed that there was plenty of food available of better quality, with higher levels of safety, with more choice and produced more efficiently.
The Lely CEO added: “The agricultural sector feeds the world healthy and nutritious food.
“But farming and society are losing more and more sight of each other. Society wants the lowest price, but at the same time demands minimal environmental impact.
“Society wants high efficiency and high volumes, but at the same time they want maximum levels of animal welfare. Society demands healthy food, but the majority still choose processed food.”
According to van Troost a changing environment is now the reality. He believes that farmers are more and more under pressure, and for some their lives are not as enjoyable anymore.
“We cannot ignore this, because society will decide at the end of the day if our farmers maintain their licence to produce or not.
“It is not good enough anymore to say that consumers don’t understand farming, they don’t get it. I believe that we all need to adapt to survive, farmers must adapt, society must adapt – so we also need to adapt.
“The big news at Lely is we have to turn those challenges faced by farmers today into the opportunities for tomorrow – because we have already done so since 1948.
“We will and we can continue to do so.
“Those opportunities will make us go back to the dream of two brothers in 1948, to make the lives of farmers more enjoyable.
“We must safeguard their licence to produce, that is our duty – there is a real risk of losing that licence if we do not solve certain issues which are raised in society.
He also outlined what the future might hold:
“We have dreams about the farm of the future – or should I say farming of the future.
“We dream of a farm that is fully acceptable to society, to the farmers and to the animals, while will ensure that [farmers] maintain their licence to produce now and into the future.
“We dream of more improved animal welfare, of lowering the environmental impact of farming, more sustainable and nutritional dairy products and particularly of greater buy-in from consumers,” van Troost added.
During the event, van Troost said five innovation themes are central:
- Improved environment – reduce environmental impact of dairy farming. Not only nitrogen emissions, but also methane emissions, water quality, soil health and biodiversity;
- Increase farmer prosperity –in some countries where Lely operates, farmer profitability is very low or even zero, this has to change;
- Buy-in from consumers – bring farmer and consumer closer together. From mutual understanding to physical distance and product traceability;
- Improve animal welfare – an environment for cows, calves and young stock in which their natural behavior and needs are encouraged;
- Sustainable and nutritious dairy products – meeting the highest quality and sustainability standards.
He added: “We must support farmers further through innovation to get a financially fit farm, with a fair and reasonable business model.
“A farm that not only produces food, but is socially relevant and acknowledge and approved by farmers.
“Farmers are the guardians of food production, they don’t have a job, they have a way of living – they put their lives in service for consumers, they should be rewarded.”
As Lely celebrates its 75-year anniversary in 2023 it is very much focused on robotics and technology.
The company was started by two brothers in Maassluis, the Netherlands in 1948, with a goal of making the farmer’s life easier.
Now 75 years later the company has more than 2,300 employees worldwide and is a market leader in robots for the agricultural sector.
Lely robots are used in more than 50 countries and over 2.5 million cows are milked with 42,000 milking robots with around 75,000 robots in locations worldwide.