One of the APOLLO project’s three pilot areas, the Municipality of Ruma in northern Serbia is an agricultural haven with a great deal of development potential. We sat down with the Bojana Lanc and Uglješa Trkulja from the Farmer’s Association of the Municipality of Ruma – a partner in the APOLLO project – to find out more about Ruma and its farmers, and why they are interested in the APOLLO project.
What makes the Ruma region unique from an agricultural point of view?
Ruma is a municipality in the Vojvodina province of northern Serbia. It is situated in the Carpathian Basin between the Danube and Sava rivers and not far from the Fruška Gora mountain, the “jewel of Serbia”. Agriculture has been a part of life in in Ruma since the times of earliest settlements, thanks to its flat, fertile plains and favourable micro-climate.
About 55.000 people live in Ruma, of which almost 11.300 work in agriculture, almost exclusively in family holdings. The area contains some 6.000 agricultural holdings and this number is increasing. Crop production is still the dominant agricultural activity, but some younger farmers are rapidly diversifying into fruit and vegetable production.
“UPOR is working hard to raise the profile of the agricultural sector and encourage incentives for local agricultural development”
With industrial development booming in recent decades, the area is grappling with the twin challenges of rapid development and modernisation faced by many pre-accession countries. Besides establishing sustainable development in the region, there is a great interest in environmental sustainability, and specifically in preserving local biodiversity.
Agricultural sustainability and efficient resource management could help the Municipality of Ruma and its surroundings to become a development model in Serbia. UPOR is working hard to raise the profile of the agricultural sector and encourage incentives for local agricultural development, recognising the many possibilities for small enterprises dealing with the production of agricultural machines and equipment, processing and upgrading agricultural product
Do farmers have experience in smart farming methods?
Smart farming is something which is not unfamiliar to our farmers, although it is probably safe to say that the full potential of using smart technologies in agriculture in this region is not yet realised. Despite Ruma’s thriving agricultural sector, neither small farmers nor local agricultural consultants have access to, or make use of advanced agricultural information on its full capacity.
This is partly due to the ongoing transition, both at state and individual level, from a centrally-planned agricultural system. As time passes, the role of modern technology in improving both yields and profits is increasingly being recognised. Within APOLLO, small farmers, agricultural consultants, and members or affiliates of the Association, will have the chance to access new technologies and be directly involved in testing and implementing the APOLLO services.
How many farmers are taking part in the APOLLO pilot?
At the moment, there are twenty farmers involved at the territory of the municipality of Ruma. Crop samples and the necessary data for the project have been collected from their fields on several occasions. There is a clear interest for farmers from the surrounding municipalities to be involved, a goal we are working towards. For the moment, they are providing us with their views and user needs. We are preparing the ground to involve them as a group which will test and evaluate the first version of the application in real conditions.
“There is a clear interest for farmers from the surrounding municipalities to be involved – a goal we are working towards.”
Is there a particular benefit that the APOLLO services will bring to your area?
Prevention of economic losses caused by diseases and pests affecting the crops is very important. Therefore, information regarding crop growth will be crucial. Land moisture is important, but at the moment, only a small number of crop cultures, seed crops, is being irrigated. On the other hand, yield estimation and the quality of products – mainly their content in protein – are becoming more and more important.
What are the main crops growing in Ruma?
The main crops cultivated in Ruma are: barley, maize, sunflower, sugarbeet, winter wheat and soybean.
What is the profile of a Ruma typical farmer?
In Ruma, farmers are mainly young people in their mid-30’s as well as middle-aged men and women (45-50 years old). Whilst generally sceptical of change, there is willingness to try different methods that are proving to be successful. Ruma farmers are keen on participating in discussions regarding the status of the agricultural sector in their area and to provide their suggestions for solving problems. They are practical in everyday life and work, interested in learning from the experiences of other farmers (especially in other countries), and ready to cooperate.
Image credits: Ugljesa Trkulja