ITALY — AGRICULTURE 360
or, if you would prefer,Italy at the gates of its agricultural future
Italy is not just the country of fashion and amazing cuisine. It is not just the country of heavy industry and tourism, but also one of the most important agricultural areas in the world, featuring an export culture and producing a variety of crops, innovative agricultural products and rural technology.
20 regions — 20 different “countries” blend in a nation. This is Italy!
Different landscapes, cultures and traditions, and also, something that leads to the production of healthy agricultural products and builds strong foundations which gives incentive to farmers and investors, who, thus, feel invited and challenged to invest in rural enterprises and in contemporary technologies.
Italians have a great opportunity to achieve further development by enlarging the “agri-food” Made in Italy . Although the number of farms has decreased dramatically over the last decade (-32%) and smaller farms of less than 10 hectares have almost disappeared in favour of larger ones, modern agriculture provides farmers with the same specific business opportunities.
In Italy, according to the last national agricultural census, there are 1,620,000 farms. Due to the country’s landscape, Italian agriculture is highly diversified, with intensive, large production taking place in the northern regions and extremely small production in mountainous areas and in the South.
Due to its longitudinal and mostly mountainous landscape and also due to its climate, which varies considerably from the North to the South, ranging from cold snowy winters and hot and humid summers in the North, to mild winters and a very hot, dry climate in the South, a wide variety of crops is a result of the great diversity of the Italian landscape.
Of the total agricultural land, grains occupy 29%, industrial crops 3%, horticulture 2%, vineyards 5%, 9% olive trees, citrus trees 1% and tree crops 3%. The northern part of Italy produces mainly corn, rice, sugar beets, soybeans, meat, fruit and dairy products, while in the southern part there are greenhouses, wheat, vineyards and citrus.
Nowadays, only a few young people engage in rural activities. Only 10% of the farm owners is younger than 40 years old, while 73% is over 50 years old. This indicates a weakness in national agriculture, since younger owners are usually those with propensity to invest and make innovations — which are the key points for the competiveness of the sector.
So, how can young farmers in Italy increase their activities?
The modern farmer has a quite different approach compared with the past. Let us forget the idea of the lonely farmers with the straw hat and the rakes.
Farmers today use the Internet and stay in contact with the world!
It is no longer only the friendly, easy-going ‘dogs’ who obey without knowledge, but independent ‘cats’ questioning and researching thoroughly before deciding. Words such as “precision farming», «GPS» “digital agriculture», “remote farming” etc. are used more and more frequently in recent years. This is proved by research on agriculture conducted in cooperation with international research institutions.
Let us take a look at some figures:
· 95.6% of all farm analyses are conducted via the internet and online databases.
· 61% of farmers use the Internet every day for issues concerning their work (e.g. weather forecast: 35.2%, 18.5%: technical information, 11.2%, market prices, etc.).
· Farmers are very interested in modern technologies (50.8%: custom applications on the use of plant protection products and nutrition products, 43%: drones: 39,3%: crops’ monitoring sensors etc.)
Recently, unmanned vessels (drones) have been introduced in agriculture. They can fly very close to the crops (to a height of 20–70 meters) and, thanks to a sophisticated array of sensors (e.g. camcorders, with multispectral sensors, GPS, magnetometers etc..), they can be configured to monitor crops and make much cheaper high resolution scans than satellite images.
The so-called “Precision Agriculture”, in the context of which different kinds of tools are used to optimise the yield of crops, is widespread and popular among farmers and is expected to ‘take off’ in the coming years.
Moreover, Precision Agriculture is for Italians an advanced form of managing agriculture, which makes use of modern technologies such as satellite mapping of the crops, sensors and GPS systems for agricultural machinery, allowing farmers to optimize cost management and minimize the overall cost (by collecting accurate information on crop yield, on soil characteristics such as topography, organic content, moisture levels, chlorophyll levels, nitrogen levels, pH, K, Mg, etc.).
Regarding fertilization, for example, this practice enables farmers to calculate and diversify the percentage of special fertilizers in accordance with the actual needs of the plants as obtained by the GPS and the sampling zone. The immediate effect is reducing the environmental impact (e.g. nitrogen leaching restriction).
ODDITIES & DIVERSIFICATION
There are of course several oddities and characteristics that distinguish Italy’s extroversion in agriculture, give it its dynamic and its stability.
For example, the country is world leader in Coffee branding, while not even an acre of the country is cultivated with coffee trees!!!
Another example is Olive Oil. Italy is among the biggest oil exporters worldwide, while its oil production does not even meet domestic demand. At the same time, the country is an oil importer. It is worth mentioning that, for example, 37.5% of the total Greek production is exported to Italy, where it is processed and standardized and subsequently is exported again as an Italian product.
The industries of food and agricultural products were always, of course, two of Italy’s major exporting sectors, with particularly strong presence in European food markets and with a strong presence in the American and Asian markets. They are represented by a large number of export oriented companies.
From olive oil to flour milling products, honey, processed meat and ready meals, Italian companies have taken full advantage of primary production’s competitive advantages, in order to reach the global market and remain competitive in it. They have, thus, made food and agricultural products, two of the most dynamic and fast developing manufacturing sectors of Italy.
Another sector in which Italian companies have achieved to bring innovation and distinguish themselves is that of packaging. During the last decade, many food companies have gained a large percentage of foreign markets, by combining traditional raw materials with innovative marketing and, very importantly, with innovative packaging.
Distribution Networks of Agricultural Supplies
The diversity encountered in different parts of the country is also reflected in its distribution networks. From the scattered southern sales of points with the ‘one step’ distribution farmer approach, with limited economic potential and rapid work development, with a passion for introducing new products and technologies, always emphasizing on interpersonal relationships, to the «CONSORZIO AGRARIO» of the North, with its numerous retail sales of points, its complex decision making process and its equally complex business structures, its long-term financial problems and its reluctancy in promoting new products and welcoming change. From the large businesses of the North, with their great bargaining power and influence to the farmers, to the smaller, multi-split, sales points of the South, which work in close cooperation and build relations of mutual assistance with their farmer clients, the contrast in work style and culture is more than evident.
It feels really like encountering “different countries” and cultures when you familiarize yourself with different areas of the agricultural food distribution chain and cooperate with their people.
·Who knows? To embrace and promote different work styles in the same business sector could be a key component of sustainable success and exploration of opportunities …
COMPO EXPERT Italy: expertise in innovative plant nutrition
What distinguishes our own Group of People in Compo Expert Italy, in this business environment?
We have to admit that the company operates and develops in the same environment of “oddities” with the structured distribution networks of agricultural products of the country.
The company — trademark for specialties in the crop nutrition market has been, until recently, focused on the preservation and development of successful stories of its “glorious past”: Amazing brands such as NPK Gold, Blaukorn, Hakaphos, Novatec, and their markets-clients-cultivations, were and are at the forefront of corporate attention. This cooperation does not only aim at establishing and developing the company shares in the Italian market, but also the shares and profitability of its customers.
In recent years, however, with new management, sources and innovative products, the company has once again focused on becoming the locomotive of new technologies and sustainable development for the benefit of its partners who are engaged in the agricultural supplies business.
We consider this path necessary in order to give surplus value and perspective to our customers’ businesses, while at the same time following the new trends in crop nutrition by becoming leaders in our market for the next decade, not only as Story Tellers but also as Story Doers.
Is that difficult? Of course, it is, especially in Italy, where are located some of the leader companies in the sector — and I am not referring only to the market or the size of the country.
But anyway, we have never chosen the easy way. The continuous development of the company, the satisfaction of our partners and the acceptance, the recognition and the reward from our clients is all that really matters and it proves that we have chosen a useful work style with a long-term perspective.