Political uncertainty is delaying those farmers who are wishing to use agri-tech to make their businesses more profitable.
Fast-developing tech, from robotic pickers to fitness trackers for cows, has the potential to transform British farms.
The use of emerging technology would make businesses more profitable while benefiting the environment, according to a new report by NFU Mutual.
However, it warns that political uncertainty and worries over future government support for agriculture is holding back investment in the latest tech developments.
Just 4 percent of farmers have already invested in autonomous tractors, while 12% were planning to invest or were yet to decide, the report shows.
Fang Wang, an NFU Mutual business analyst, said: “Across the world new agri-technology is set to make a major impact on farm profitability and even world prices.
“In the UK, adoption of new tech is currently slow because of uncertainty over policy, lack of understanding, shortage of capital and concerns about the reliability of first-generation technology.
“While entirely understandable, this hesitancy is putting UK farmers at risk of falling behind other nations in the race for efficient, environmentally-friendly food.”
The report recommends farmers take a ‘whole of farm’ approach to planning future agri-tech investment to ensure new systems integrate with other parts of the farm management system.
It also encourages farmers to look at technology systems that integrate not only the farm’s activities but also its supply chain, creating opportunities for farmers, food processors and retailers to work together.
Farmers should keep up to date with developments and ensure they have the management skills to adopt technology and successfully master the opportunities available from data-based farming, it adds.
Working with other farms is also recommended by the report, as co-operation can help achieve economies of scale both in the use of new technology and the adoption of a farmer-friendly supply chain.
Ali Capper, Worcestershire fruit and hop grower, believes agri-tech can enable the UK to compete in world markets while maintaining its high health and welfare standards.
“The fourth agricultural revolution is bringing exciting opportunities for farmers to increase productivity, protect the environment and make farming safer.
“We are on the cusp of a world where farmers and growers can minutely manage inputs to maximise production and use automation and robotics to reduce labour numbers and costs.”
The new report is part of NFU Mutual’s initiative to support farmers to introduce new technology.