Information and communications technology (ICT) offers enormous opportunities for the agriculture sector globally and Ireland can lead the way in this new revolution, a conference in Kilkenny heard today.

Waterford Institute of Technology’s (WIT) Telecommunications, Software and Systems Group (TSSG) hosted the ICT Agricultural conference, which was addressed by EU commissioner Phil Hogan.

By bringing together people from both the agricultural and ICT industries, common opportunities can be identified and the potential captured as a national strategy geared towards developing an export-focused ICT-agriculture industry, WIT president and TSSG founder and director, Prof Willie Donnelly said at the event.

“We are working with our existing partners to develop new relationships to address recognised and agreed issues within the agricultural supply chain by applying established ICT solutions,” he said.

“From an earlier ‘ICT-Agri Think Tank’ held in February delegates admitted that while ICT systems are deployed to a degree within the Irish agricultural industry, existing implementations are siloed.”

A number of European countries are investing heavily in the development of their ‘smart-agri’ production systems by supporting the use of advanced ICT at all stages in the food chain – from the primary producer on-farm, through to the processor and retailer, delegates were told

“The key emerging challenge is how to integrate and make sense of a diverse range of data sources, and channel this into a usable form that delivers increased efficiencies and supports increased levels of sustainable production,” said Donnelly.

“The Irish agricultural sector can gain substantial competitive advantage by harnessing our newest resource – data.”