Tech talent vital for the survival of the UK farming industry

Just like any other industry, the UK farming sector is becoming increasingly reliant on tech talent.

A recent survey by McDonald’s of UK farmers has found that tech talent is quickly becoming a necessity for the farming industry.

Farmers are finding it increasingly fundamental, with 61% saying they believe technology will have an impact on their business over the next five years.

Three quarters said they would need more access to digital and technology skills, while more than half said they would need greater access to data and coding knowledge, according to the McDonald’s survey.

The need for the right skills is something that has become increasingly exacerbated since Brexit. The same is true for UK farmers, with 81% revealing that access to the right skills is their top priority over the coming 12 months.

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At the same time 86% said talent is crucial to making the £100 billion a year UK farming industry globally competitive, according to the fast food firm’s first Farm Forward Barometer.

“The farming industry is currently facing some big challenges but it’s encouraging to see that, despite this, farmers are being front-footed in their investment in technology and skills to ensure the UK remains at the forefront of producing great quality produce,” said Connor McVeigh, supply chain director at McDonald’s UK, which is expanding its young farmer training programme.

“As one of the biggest customers of British farming, we want to help the industry meet these challenges head on and thrive in future,” he added.

The technology being used by farmers is more advanced than most people would expect, and includes; satellite mapping, GPS controlled machinery, predictive analytics, drones and robotics.

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“We’re using drones and GPS guidance to improve the timing and accuracy when we apply fertiliser to our crops. This increases yields, reduces waste and keeps both our carbon and water footprint at optimal levels for efficient food production,” said Andrew Francis of Elveden Farm Estate which supplies potatoes to McDonald’s.

“Technology skills are increasingly important as more of our monitoring, application machinery and grading equipment is digitally operated. We see the best results when we have people in place who understand technology and how to apply it.”

The survey found that to address this need for talent, more than half of farmers plan to attract expertise from beyond the traditional farming industry.


James Maynard, offering management director – Global IoT & Innovation at Fujitsu, has responded to the news, and said that “this recent survey have shown that farming is increasingly attracting expertise from beyond the traditional farming industry. Access to digital and technology skills has the potential to revolutionise the way we approach agriculture and ensure high quality and reduced overhead costs.”

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“While farming and high-end technology are sometimes not associated with one another, it is encouraging to see the industry adopt new technologies to become an integrated part of their day-to-day activities.”

“British farming is facing a number of challenges; understanding how technology can be applied to empower farmers to achieve better results is a vital step towards ensuring UK farming thrives.”

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...