Lennart Nilsson runs an agricultural company in Halland, Sweden, together with his family. He is a member of LRF's board and represents LRF in Copa-Cogeca, the EU's umbrella organisation for agricultural organisations and cooperatives, where he, among other things, chairs the working group for oilseed and protein crops.
The visit to the Farm of the Future Svalöv was very well arranged by Lantmännen and we had many important discussions. During the afternoon, we talked about innovation and opportunities to increase the sustainability of agriculture, both in terms of the environment and profitability. I participated in a panel discussion with speakers from Sweden, Norway, the European Commission, and the upcoming Spanish presidency. The panel agreed that we need to increase productivity on fields and farms while at the same time improving environmental sustainability.
An issue that several panelists pointed out is the importance of plant breeding to meet climate change, respond to consumer preferences, and increase productivity. We have a broad toolbox for sophisticated plant breeding. A topical issue right now is the use of new genomic technologies such as CRISPR/Cas9. If the technology is used to induce mutations and thus change genes within the plant, so-called targeted mutation breeding, this technology can increase precision and speed in the selection of characteristics that need to be strengthened in plant breeding. This is without adding genes from a foreign species.
The European Commission plans to present a proposal regarding this in July. The next step is that parliament and member states need to get behind it. I believe that the meeting at Svalöv, with several different countries represented, was an important step in creating a discussion and consensus regarding the way forward within the EU – including in the matter of plant breeding.
Another issue was how available techniques for more productive and sustainable cultivation can be spread and have a greater impact. For example, it must be easier for the farmer to get connected to existing technology, for example to easily use a satellite image in their own systems. Further standardisations and collaboration are needed here. The industry in Sweden has taken the initiative for the agricultural data platform Agronod, for simple and secure sharing of Swedish agricultural data. The importance of strengthening the profitability for farmers was also highlighted, linked to this implementation gap. We can’t adopt new green methods if the numbers are red.
The Swedish EU presidency has shown that Sweden is a country to be reckoned with in agricultural matters. The development taking place here should be listened to and followed. We are probably in the forefront in Europe in using precision farming for, among other things, the distribution of plant nutrition. We want to show such opportunities and lead by example. The meeting at Svalöv was very focused on opportunities and future potential, which was inspiring. Through EU collaboration, we can take steps forward jointly within the European Union for more sustainable agriculture that ensures food security and supply. At the same time, EU-wide initiatives need to be adaptable to local conditions. In Sweden, we have come a long way, for example in terms of reduced use of chemical plant protection where Swedish levels are low in comparison. EU objectives in this regard need to be adapted to the conditions of different countries.
The question "What is sustainable agriculture?" is often asked. We in Sweden have come a long way in answering it. I often use Lantmännen’s reports Farming of the Future to explain what we mean. Sweden is at the forefront of driving development and we can lead by example within the EU. As a member and chairman of the Lantmännen local association in Harplinge, I am proud of Lantmännen's impressive event arranged for the CAP directors at Svalöv.