Recognising potential for improving the competitiveness of farms

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Swiss agriculture is small in scale by international standards, and – apart from a small number of large farms – comprises a high proportion of small holdings. The existing structures and the local production conditions are reflected in low labour productivity and high structural costs, and are thus a limiting factor in terms of improving competitiveness. The constantly changing social, economic and political conditions beg the fundamental question as to which structural and farm development strategies are promising and – through the implementation of innovations in the sphere of production engineering and organisation – will allow the farms to operate sustainably over the medium and long term, even in (more-)open markets.

As a starting point for developing such strategies, we must analyse previous structural development, existing structures, and any path dependencies, in order to determine the relevant economic, structural and social influencing factors. The Farm Accountancy Data Network forms an essential basis for this. In addition, the costs and benefits of innovations such as the use of information and communication technology or measures for increasing resource efficiency at farm- and farm-production-branch level are analysed in cooperation with Agroscope research groups. Building on the findings regarding structural development and the relevant influencing factors, the aim is to indicate concrete lines of attack and measures for improving the competitiveness of farms.

Scientific Objectives and Research Questions

The survey of incomes (including agricultural income) via random sampling is carried out annually. Once reform of the recording system has taken place, consolidation – which requires extensive documentation – is on the agenda.  

Among other things, FADN accounting data are used to analyse the following research topics with regard to increasing competitiveness:

  1. What farm strategies are promising, in view of future framework conditions such as (more-)open markets? How high are the potential cost savings or increases in output if farms or production branches grow and/or diversify or specialise?
  2. What are the main factors influencing farm structure and focus (size, farm type, production engineering, non-agricultural activity), resilience (including financial stability over the years with increasing price volatility) and profitability (costs and services)? What are the economies of scale in the main production branches (dairy, cattle- and pig fattening, arable farming)?

The folIowing questions are to be dealt with in close cooperation with the Agroscope research groups that focus on production and the environment:

  • At farm, production branch or process level, what are the costs and benefits of innovations such as the use of information and communication technology (ICT, precision agriculture or smart farming), measures that seek to increase resource efficiency (e.g. utilisation of nitrogenous fertilisers and plant-protection products, use of technical innovations), additional environmental protection regulations (e.g. promotion of biodiversity via flower strips in crops) or an improvement in animal welfare?