Anyone who knows me knows that I can be in several cities during the day, and even go abroad and back. This week, I had the opportunity to visit Vienna, Linz, Ankara, Kayseri, and Antalya. The short trip to Austria proved to be the most fruitful of them all.
I gathered some important notes for both my university, Turkish exports, and economy at Austria, where I went for 24 hours to attend Huawei’s “5G Smart Farming” meetings.
The productivity in agriculture has become a prominent activity as well as food security and export restrictions that have arisen due to the pandemic and the Ukraine-Russia conflict. Austria has decided to use 5G technology and its unmanned aerial vehicle fleet to get the maximum efficiency from its agricultural lands. At the meeting I attended yesterday, they both explained the project and showed it to me in person. Before the field visit, I had the chance to participate in a Q&A session with the leaders of the project.
Perhaps the most stimulating question of the meeting was “It is good to enhance agricultural technology, but how ready are farmers for this transition?”. The most important problem in Turkey is that young people are more interested in high technology rather than agriculture. We have to find a way to combine the young people’s enthusiasm for technology with the knowledge and experience of the farmers. Perhaps institutions that provide undergraduate and graduate education on drone piloting, such as Topkapı University, should also be in contact with farmers about productivity in agriculture.
However, agriculture is often not a profitable business and cannot survive without government support. I have asked the investor of drones, “How will the farmers finance the new technology? What is position of the government in this transition?” The answer was quite intriguing: “The first step towards smart farming is financed by the government. We do not leave the burden of financing costs to our farmers alone. After all, agriculture is a national interest.”
Clearly, supporting agriculture should be a government policy and the government should never stop supporting farmers financially. I do not think that this problem in Turkey, that is the lack of government’s support for farmers, will be solved by giving out loans alone. It is not possible for Turkish farmers who make extremely low profits to engage in such investment with the current interest rates, especially when interest rates are rising all over the world. In fact, the problem is not only about money, but it is also about creating new jobs allowing the use of new technologies in farming.
Agriculture is a public service…
In Austria, municipalities too are actively involved in the agricultural sector and support farmers on behalf of the government. The agricultural activity is not only managed and supervised by the Ministry of Agriculture but also by local administrations. They know that the municipality’s resources should not only be used to establish physical and digital infrastructure or provide other services needed by different sectors. Some participants at the meeting said that the era of large agricultural machinery would soon be over. In fact, there are serious efforts to implement this technology in livestock farming.
European countries are working to become self-sufficient to ensure their food security, especially now the governments are imposing export bans. People are worried about the fast approaching winter, but everyone does something to eliminate these worries.
Around 10 million people live in Austria, a country with an economic size of more than half of Turkey’s national income. This clearly shows the position of Austria in terms of productivity and added value. Austrian per capita income is over $55,000. It is obvious that the country is doing all the right things to ensure every citizen’s welfare.
Perhaps, moderately low population density allows the governments to engage in more investments that value people and increase value. All I know is Turkish agriculture has been regressing in recent years and Turkey is quickly losing its self-sufficient power as a country. When talking to foreigners, I hear them say that Turkey is a very productive country with great potential. At least in terms of perception, we remain the same way, and I am consoled by it.