McDonald’s has surveyed UK farmers to discover their priorities as part of a programme to support the agricultural sector.
The fast food chain said the poll marked the five-year anniversary of its Farm Forward programme, which promotes skills, animal welfare and the environment in its supply chain. McDonald’s spends more than £600m a year on its UK supply chain, which includes 17,500 British and Irish farmers.
The survey of 500 farmers found their top priority was recruiting the right skills and talent, with 86% saying this was key to making the sector competitive globally.
Two thirds (61%) said emerging technology would impact their business over the next five years, requiring new skills and talent, and three quarters (75%) said they would need more access to digital and technology skills. A similar proportion (72%) said business skills and more than a half (55%) said data analytics and coding would be needed.
Two thirds (64%) were using, or planned to use, satellite mapping and precision farming techniques – including sensors, GPS-controlled machinery and predictive analytics – to ensure crops and livestock get what they need. Half (44%) said the same of big data analytics and a similar proportion (49%) cited remote sensing technology, which takes real-time measurements of crop height and weather conditions. A third said drone technology (39%) and robotics (34%).
Andrew Francis, farm manager at Elveden Farm Estate, a potato supplier to McDonald’s, said: “We’re using drones and GPS guidance to improve the timing and accuracy when we apply fertiliser to our crops. This increases yields, reduces waste and keeps both our carbon and water footprint at optimal levels for efficient food production.”
Connor McVeigh, supply chain director for McDonald’s UK, said: “The farming industry is currently facing some big challenges but it’s encouraging to see that, despite this, farmers are being front-footed in their investment in technology and skills to ensure the UK remains at the forefront of producing great quality produce.
“As one of the biggest customers of British farming, we want to help the industry meet these challenges head on and thrive in future. That’s why we are continuing to support the industry through our Farm Forward programme and why, this year, we are opening our training programme to even more young farmers to help nurture the next generation and equip them with the right skills to tackle this dynamic and changing industry.”
The training scheme, which has been in operation since 2012, involves students spending a year working in each part of the McDonald’s supply chain, including farms and restaurants.
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