Supporting Small-Sized Farmers in Europe: A Comprehensive Guide

Supporting Small-Sized Farmers in Europe

This comprehensive guide for small-sized farmers in Europe provides essential support strategies, highlighting key resources and opportunities to thrive. Discover how Farmtopia is already transforming small farms through innovative digital solutions, empowering farmers to overcome challenges and enhance productivity.

Overall Look on Farms in Europe 

Agriculture, one of the oldest means of production, began 12,000 years ago when prehistoric societies transitioned from nomadic hunting to settled farming. Over millennia, agriculture spurred progress and shaped many of today’s European cities.

Let’s take a look at the latest statistics from last years related to farms in Europe by Eurostat:

  • Number of Farms: The EU had 9.1 million agricultural holdings in 2020.
  • Family Farms: Family farms dominate the EU, making up 94.8% of all holdings. However, non-family farms were notable in France (42.3% of 0.4 million farms) and Estonia (33.8%).
  • Farm Sizes: Almost two-thirds of EU farms are under 5 hectares, playing a key role in reducing rural poverty. Large farms (50 hectares or more) accounted for 7.5% of the total but managed 68.2% of the agricultural land. 

The Importance of Small-Sized Farmers

Small-sized farms, typically defined as those under 10 hectares, account for a substantial portion of Europe’s agricultural holdings. As mentioned above, according to the European Commission, nearly 70% of EU farms are small. These farms are crucial for maintaining rural entrepreneurship, preserving traditional farming methods, and ensuring food diversity.

In the infographic below, Farmtopia accumulated current data available on the state of small farms in the EU. According to Eurostat, new data will be released in 2025. 

Small farmers statistic from Eurostat and other sources detailing the state of small-sized farmers in Europe

Challenges Faced by Small Farmers

Agriculture is a high-risk industry, vulnerable to weather, fluctuating demand, and foreign competition, which makes it challenging to earn profits and attract investments. This is why it remains one of the most heavily subsidised sectors in the EU, despite its small contribution to economic growth. Among the mentioned challenges, there are:

1.Economic Pressure: With limited land and resources, small farmers often struggle to achieve economies of scale, making it difficult to compete with larger agricultural enterprises.
2.Regulatory Hurdles: Navigating the complex web of EU agricultural policies and regulations can be daunting for small farmers, who may lack the resources to comply with stringent standards.
3. Challenges of Adopting Digital Solutions: Small-scale farmers are often situated in remote or rural areas facing limited access to technology. The absence of reliable internet connectivity and electricity is a bottleneck, preventing the adoption and utilisation of digital tools.  

Opportunities for Small Farmers

Despite all challenges, there are numerous opportunities for small farmers to thrive:

  • Organic and Niche Markets: Increasing consumer demand for organic and locally sourced products presents a significant opportunity for small farmers to carve out profitable niches, such as organic avocado farming.
  • Cooperatives and Associations: Joining cooperatives or farming associations can help small farmers pool resources, share knowledge, and gain better access to markets. An example of such an effort in Europe is the widely known CUMA Farm Machinery Cooperativethe largest agricultural cooperative in France.
  • Agri-Tourism: Agritourism combines the countryside’s environmental richness, scenic landscapes, cultural heritage, traditional lifestyles, and local food and drinks, making rural areas appealing for recreation and leisure. Visitors are also often keen to learn about traditional farming practices. Diversifying into agri-tourism can provide additional income streams.
  • Technology Adoption: Modern digital solutions, including precision farming tools and digital platforms, can enhance productivity and market reach.

Essential Resources and Support

To support agriculture, but specially small-sized farmers, various resources and programs are available across Europe:

  • Common Agricultural Policy (CAP): The EU’s CAP provides financial support and incentives for sustainable farming practices. Recent reforms have aimed to make CAP more accessible to small farmers.
  • Rural Action Plan: These programs offer funding and support for rural infrastructure, training, and innovation, which can help small farms become more sustainable and competitive.
  • EU’s funding program: Horizon Europe: Horizon Europe is the EU’s primary funding program for research and innovation, boasting a budget of €95.5 billion. It addresses climate change, supports the achievement of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, and enhances the EU’s competitiveness and growth.

How does Farmtopia help Small-Sized Farmers? 

Farmtopia aims to democratize digital farming by focusing on the collaborative development of Agricultural Digital Solutions (ADSs) that address the real issues and unique needs of small farms. The project seeks to reduce costs for farmers and ADS providers through reusable software modules, business and governance models, and scalable infrastructure. Additionally, Farmtopia facilitates the co-creation, deployment, and piloting of innovative ADSs, while concurrently designing and validating supporting business and governance models.

Open Call Initiative 

Supporting small-sized farmers is not just about preserving tradition; it’s about ensuring a sustainable future for agriculture in Europe.

As a strong advocate for empowering small farms with digital solutions, the Farmtopia project aims to enhance rural growth by launching 18 Sustainable Innovation Pilots (SIPs). While nine of these pilots have already been predetermined, the remaining nine will be chosen through an Open Call initiative, allowing for flexibility in response to policy and technological changes. These SIPs will focus mainly on specific crops and livestock that lack adequate ADSs, as well as important regional crops. With a total budget of €900,000, each selected SIP will receive €100,000 to collaborate and trial smart solutions using Farmtopia’s modular software.

To keep up with Farmtopia’s future efforts, follow our Newsroom for more, and find us on Linkedin

NEUROPUBLIC Leads Effort in Farmtopia Project to Boost Sustainability and Profitability in Organic Avocado Farming


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