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Farmers tuned in to online information


The results from a national survey, conducted by the National Farm Research Unit (NFRU) reveals that farmers across the country are widely adopting the Internet as part of their business.  The survey revealed that the majority of farmers, both arable and livestock, actively use the Internet (56% of all farmers) and that of those who are using the Internet over 86% had access to Broadband.  An increasing percentage of farmers are seeking information online and purchasing farm inputs online.

Specifically targeting arable farmers, the National Farm Research Unit asked over thirteen thousand arable farmers whether they used the Internet and has found that the majority are doing so (57%).  Of those using the Internet, 87% now have broadband, compared with just 55% four years ago, says Jim Williams of the NFRU.

Close to half of all arable farmers say that they have gone on-line to get information about farm inputs (47%), with 40% of them reporting that they have bought some farm inputs on-line.  The trend is for more farmers to seek information on-line, with 42% doing so four years ago.  Using the Internet for purchasing farm inputs is increasing, with just 17% buying farm inputs on-line four years ago.

Farming sector

% who use of the Internet

% who have Broadband

% who use the Internet for information on farm inputs

% who use the Internet for purchasing farm inputs

Arable farmers





Livestock farmers





Dairy farmers





Sheep farmers





Beef farmers





Of the eleven thousand livestock farmers who were polled by the National Farm Research Unit, 55% said they were using the Internet, with a higher percentage of dairy farmers doing so (59%) compared to sheep farmers (52%) or beef farmers (54%).  Of those livestock farmers using the Internet, 85% now have broadband, compared with just 67% three years ago.  The percentage of farmers with broadband was similar for beef (85%), dairy (86%) and sheep farmers (84%).

The survey also showed that 45% of livestock farmers had gone on-line to get information about farm inputs, with more dairy farmers using this as a source of information (49%).  Just 42% of sheep farmers used the Internet for information.  Two out of five livestock farmers (40%) reported that they have bought some farm inputs on-line, with no differences between the different types of livestock farmers.

Amongst the arable sector there was some regional variation with regard to adopting the Internet as part of their business.  In the Eastern region (66% of arable farmers), South East Region (65% of arable farmers), North East (63%), Northern Ireland (62%), Scotland (60%) and the East Midlands (59%) reported higher levels of adoption of the Internet, whilst arable farmers in the North West (53%) Southern Ireland (53%) and Wales (48%) appeared to use the Internet less than the national picture, says Jim Williams.

When it came to Broadband, 91% of arable farmers in the South East, 90% in the East, 89% in the South West and 88% in the North East, in Scotland and in the West Midlands had access to Broadband.

Jim Williams points out that for the livestock farmers their use of the Internet varied depending on their main enterprise as well as the region in which they were farming.  Amongst all livestock farmers, it was those in Eastern Region (63%), the North East (63%) and the South East (62%) that reported higher use of the Internet, whilst those in Wales (48%), the West Midlands (51%) and Yorkshire and Humberside (51%) were less likely to go online than the national figure.

When it came to Broadband 89% of livestock farmers in the South East and South West, 88% in the East, 87% in the North East had access to Broadband.

Although the NFRU survey indicates growing percentage of farmers using the Internet and enjoying Broadband, just half of the farming community use the Internet for information on farming inputs and very few farmer (around two in five) who use this technology to purchase farm inputs technology, says Jim Williams.

The National Farm Research Unit is a full service, applied market research unit, based in Framingham, Suffolk.  The NFRU conducts research projects in all agriculture, livestock, food and many other business-to-business sectors and contacts 40,000 farmers, vets, merchants and consumers per year on a rolling basis in the UK, Ireland and internationally.  It has a unique targeted database of contacts and a highly skilled and experienced interviewing team, asking questions about current practices and attitudes.  It is involved in ad hoc surveys and syndicated surveys for a wide range of clients.

Precision Prospecting.  Established in 1993, Precision Prospecting is a Research Driven Marketing company, specialising in agriculture, animals and food.  It has brought together the disciplines of pure market research, product management, marketing and sales in order to help R & D manufacturers deliver practical marketing to drive sales.  It has offices in Framingham, Suffolk.

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