Until March 2, the exhibition centre at Porte de Versailles in Paris is hosting the 51st edition of the International Agricultural Show, an important yearly event, which attracts some 700 thousand visitors.
With a trade surplus of € 9 billion and with more than 950 thousand people working in it, Agri-food is the most important industrial sector in France.
It is understandable, therefore, why the Agricultural Show is a very popular event with the public.
Jean-Luc Poulain, President of the International Agriculture Show explains: ‘‘We have to be very careful in agriculture, like in all French industries, on the competitiveness of our businesses.
‘‘The competitiveness is linked with the level of expenses, and we have gone from second place three of four years ago to fifth place today. We must stop to going backwards, we must take control again of the market shares, we must restore our competitiveness and French farmers are definitely ready for that challenge,’‘ he added.
At the fair you can even take a glimpse into the future of agriculture.
At their stand, the National Institute of Agronomic Research show promotes the dissemination of agroecology, among its many activities.
Olivier Le Gall, deputy director general for science at INRA, said: ‘‘Agroecology is not a return to the past, agroecology is knowledge-intensive and it takes a lot of knowledge, it requires bringing knowledge to farmers, to the final users, we have this duty too. In short: agroecology is hi-tech.’‘
The future of agriculture hinges on the use of new technologies.
At the stand of French producer Gregoire a grape harvesting machine that uses the latest electronic gadgets takes centre stage.
Geoffrey Delon, assistant head of production at Gregoire said: ‘‘We have the colour touch screen, we have the joy-stick and the settings console. The machine also has an automatic height management system so it always remains level to preserve the quality of the harvest.’‘
Technology has also entered the Vegetal Odyssey Farm, an initiative that brings together the vegetable supply chains in France. With enhanced reality software, the farmer learns how to fly a drone that optimizes the use of fertilizer.
Julien Massonnat, coordinator at Vegetal Odyssey Farm said: ‘‘Not only will it lead to financial savings for the farmer, who will use less fertilizer and phytosanitary products, but mainly it will increase environmentally-friendly farming.’‘
In a time when we ask ourselves a lot of questions about the future of the economy following the global crisis, agriculture remains, despite numerous problems, an area where job opportunities are plentiful, especially for young people.
Poulain said: ‘‘We have now, just on the production sector, I don’t speak of the downstream and upstream, eleven thousand vacant positions. Agriculture is a source of employment and seeks to fill the jobs it creates.’‘
Agriculture has formed a large part of European culture but as the shows in Paris highlight, it will almost certainly play a crucial role in our economic future.