Agriculture is a branch of the economy that represents great potential in Serbia. Last year, agricultural production recorded a growth of 7.5 percent, and the value of exports of agricultural goods in 2021 reached 4.97 billion dollars (about 514.79 billion dinars).
Taking into account the global trend of accelerated technological development, the question arises in which direction this area of the economy could move. For several decades, many agricultural producers have been finding ways to include modern technologies in the processes of cultivation and production, so it is quite clear that a kind of symbiosis has been created in this area as well.
Therefore, it is not surprising that the decision to include the area “High technology in agriculture and food industry” in the project Serbia Innovates, which is realized through the cooperation of ICT Hub and USAID, and which is aimed at creating the first Serbian supercluster.
Dejan Randjic, the president of the ICT Huba board, speaks for Biznis.rs about this potential supercluster, related to one of the four areas that have been shown to represent the greatest economic potential.
Asked in which direction agriculture could develop when high technology is included in the equation, Randjic answered that innovations in agriculture and food production have been present for centuries.
Today, plowing, mechanical soil preparation, modern protection of agricultural crops, pasteurization and new types of fruit processing seem to us to be common or primitive approaches, and in fact it is an evolution of innovative approaches that have changed this essential branch of economy throughout history, be better and safer, food healthier and tastier, and to enable products that did not exist before “, says our interlocutor.
As he says, innovations and high technology still have the goal of achieving more, better, healthier and hitherto impossible, but also to reduce risks, reduce the consequences of climate change, and sometimes even use them.
“What we additionally focus on is the orientation towards technologies that will ensure energy efficiency and the use of chemical processes and products that do not pollute the environment and minimize waste,” said Randjic, emphasizing that the potential lies in areas such as vertical and air gardening, precision agriculture, remote detection and control using IoT solutions, application of drones and remote livestock management systems, automated agriculture when picking fruits, as well as data management.
Asked how he assesses the readiness of farms and farms engaged in agricultural production to include the application of high technology in their business, he said that the main incentives for turning to innovative types of production will be the desire of producers to do their job more easily.
“Any technological solution and innovation that will solve these and many other problems will be accepted primarily to make your job easier – with fewer problems, less uncertainty, to produce healthier food and to survive profitably and expand in business.” Randjic explains.
It is inevitable that farmers will want to get information and learn how to improve production processes, but that is not the only reason to include technology in this area. In this way, says Randjic, they will have adequate access to finance that enables the process of introducing technology. This includes favorable credit schemes, grants and the use of existing domestic and EU funding lines.
However, the precondition for all that is openness to new solutions and readiness for “lifelong” education, he states.
“Digital Farm stands out as a good example, which enables farmers and food producers to improve production. Through this great project, farmers can learn to manage production risks directly and without investment. Through the Digital Farm project, scientists, innovative companies and startups have the opportunity to work together on innovation for better results in agriculture. That is the direction in which we should go “, says Dejan Randjic.
The president of the board of ICT Huba states that the interest in innovations in the agricultural sector is great, and that it will inevitably lead to positive changes. As one of the examples, he cites the Novi Sad institute BioSense, which is already “working to move the scientific and technological boundaries of innovative applications of IT in agriculture, providing the entire agricultural sector with state-of-the-art digital solutions to achieve higher yields with significantly less investment.”
Asked about the changes that the introduction of new technologies in agriculture and food production will bring, Randic said that it will contribute to the growth, strengthening and stabilization of primary food production, but also to the creation of new opportunities in final production.
“It is a chance to reduce the import of high value-added products, and to export significantly more such products to foreign markets. “With this change, we would have a positive impact on the entire chain, from the field to the final distribution,” he explains.
What does the High Technology Supercluster bring to agriculture and the food industry?
Dejan Randjic states that the creation of the AgTech vertical of innovation is encouraged through the supercluster. As he says, he expects that the supercluster will combine innovation, scientific, economic potential, in order to work together on the solution and conquest of new technologies, which is exactly what the agricultural sector in Serbia lacks.
“The supercluster networks and connects, creates value and brings new opportunities. As a globally validated model based on the power of innovation, it attracts different actors in one vertical and enables synergistic solutions to challenges that cannot be solved individually. And it is extremely important that the supercluster will enable the financing of all projects that arise in it “, he explains, adding that because of all this he believes that numerous AgTech innovations will improve food production in Serbia, lead to innovations that will enable us to be recognized worldwide market and become a center in the region for all who want to establish themselves in this field, Biznis reports.