Continental Study "Agriculture in Transition"

Digital Gap among Farmers: Intelligent Solutions for Every Stage of Digitalization

The digital transformation of agriculture is underway. Seamless digital processes, artificial intelligence and automation are on the horizon and will fundamentally change agriculture.

Digital gap among farmers: Continental offers intelligent solutions for every stage of digitalization

Some farmers are already using artificial intelligence and robotics solutions. The use of these technologies will increase massively in the coming years. These are the findings of a recent study conducted by Continental and the market research institute Innofact AG among 503 users of agricultural machinery in the key markets of Germany, the USA, Brazil, France and Japan.

A digital gap is already opening up in agriculture today: The smaller the farm, the more likely it is to be a digital desert. The results of the Continental study "Agriculture in transition" suggest that this gap will widen in the coming years. After all, digitalization does not yet seem to play a major role on some farms. One in five respondents does not use digital technologies at all

So, while larger farms are mostly using digital technologies, smaller farms often have some catching up to do. About 20 percent of farms with less than 50 hectares of land say they do not use digital technologies. The figure is 12 percent for farms between 100 and 200 hectares, and 10 percent for farms with more than 200 hectares.

There are also significant regional differences: In Germany, France and the U.S., about 13 percent of farmers do not use digital technologies, while in Brazil it is only one in twenty. In Japan, on the other hand, about 60 percent of respondents say they do not use digital technologies in their farming operations.

These figures shed an interesting light on the current state of digital agriculture. As Mario Branco, Head of Off-Highway at Continental, points out: "The digital transformation of agriculture is a global task with significant regional differences. While in some countries digital technologies are already deeply integrated into everyday agricultural life, others are only at the beginning of this exciting journey. These differences reflect not only the diversity of agricultural practices around the world, but also the different challenges and opportunities farmers face."


"The digital transformation of agriculture is a global task with significant regional differences."

Mario Branco
Head of Off-Highway at Continental

Looking at farms that are already using digital technologies, there are also big differences in the degree of digitalization: While many farmers have already implemented solutions such as apps and GPS-controlled agricultural machinery (apps: 45 percent, GPS-controlled agricultural machinery: 41 percent) and about one in three farmers (30 percent) use satellite images, the use of robotics (13 percent) and artificial intelligence (10 percent) is less widespread. Again, there is a clear difference between small and large farms: On farms with less than 50 hectares of land, apps are used by about 39 percent of farmers; on farms with more than 200 hectares, the figure is well over 60 percent (63.9 percent). The difference is even greater when it comes to GPS-controlled agricultural machinery. On small farms, only one in four farmers (25 percent) use them, compared to nearly two-thirds (63.9 percent) on large farms. 

Q2: Which technologies are already in use today on the farm where you work?
Overcoming the digital gap: Addressing individual digital needs

The study also shows that farmers need strong partners for change. When asked what (additional) services from technology companies would help them, 43 percent of respondents said more user-friendly technologies. 37 percent are interested in training courses on the usability of technologies provided, while 31 percent would like to see data presented in an understandable way.

If technology companies want to support farmers in their digital transformation, they need to address their individual challenges and meet them at the stage of digital transformation they are at. This is why; Continental offers farmers customized digital solutions. In developing these solutions, Continental benefits from its expertise in the areas of intralogistics, construction and mining, as well as passenger cars and commercial vehicles, and incorporates the knowledge gained in these areas, such as material expertise, big data, automation and sensors, into intelligent solutions for agriculture.

Farmers want to invest in the future – and Continental is there to support them

Looking to the future, one third of the farmers surveyed expect to use robotic solutions in the near future – an increase of 138 percent compared to current use. These high ambitions are also reflected in artificial intelligence. According to the self-assessment, almost twenty percent (about 19 percent) will be added to the current users (about 10 percent) in the next five to ten years. This represents an almost tripling to 29 percent.

Q2.1: Looking at your farm: Which of the following technologies will be used there in the next five to ten years?

Continental is already developing such solutions today. "In the coming years, many farmers will significantly increase their use of artificial intelligence and robotics to make their operations more efficient and environmentally friendly. This will fundamentally change agriculture – from precise soil analysis to automated harvesting and intelligent yield prediction. We are already making an important contribution with our greenhouse applications. At the same time, we at Continental are supporting our customers in every step of the implementation process so that they can fully benefit from the potential of these technologies," says Mario Branco, Head of Off-Highway at Continental.

Robotics in agriculture: modular concept for a variety of implements

Digital technologies are playing a critical role in the transformation of agriculture. One good example is precision farming which uses mobile robots. Using GPS technology, sensors and data analysis, robots can better manage resources, cultivate fields more efficiently and protect the soil.

Continental recently presented a future-oriented solution at Agritechnica 2023: a greenhouse robotic solution. The solution is based on a modular concept consisting of an autonomous platform as a carrier for various devices. It fulfills tasks such as ultraviolet light (UVC) treatment, selective harvesting or scouting activities. Thanks to its modular and multiple compatible approach, the autonomous platform can be used with different superstructures to optimize the overall use of resources and support autonomous operation around the clock. Continental is working with Octiva to bring the solution to market by the end of 2024. As part of this collaboration, Octiva is taking on the role of application partner for the robot platform and focuses on the development and deployment of market-specific applications.

Want to learn more about our digital technologies for the future of agriculture? Then please contact our expert:

Mario Branco

Mario Branco

Head of Off-Highway at Continental