In the long term, productivity and especially productivity growth are necessary conditions for the survival of a farm. This paper focuses on the technology choice of a dairy farm, i.e. the choice between a conventional and an automatic milking system. Its aim is to reveal the extent to which economic rationality explains investing in new technology. The adoption of robotics is further linked to farm productivity to show how capital-intensive technology has affected the overall productivity of milk production. The empirical analysis applies a probit model and an extended Cobb-Douglas-type production function to a Finnish farm-level dataset for the years 2000–10. The results show that very few economic factors on a dairy farm or in its economic environment can be identified to affect the switch to automatic milking. Existing machinery capital and investment allowances are among the significant factors. The results also indicate that the probability of investing in robotics responds elastically to a change in investment aids: an increase of 1% in aid would generate an increase of 2% in the probability of investing. Despite the presence of non-economic incentives, the switch to robotic milking is proven to promote productivity development on dairy farms. No productivity growth is observed on farms that keep conventional milking systems, whereas farms with robotic milking have a growth rate of 8.1% per year. The mean rate for farms that switch to robotic milking is 7.0% per year. The results show great progress in productivity growth, with the average of the sector at around 2% per year during the past two decades. In conclusion, investments in new technology as well as investment aids to boost investments are needed in low-productivity areas where investments in new technology still have great potential to increase productivity, and thus profitability and competitiveness, in the long run.
Anna-Maija Heikkilä is agricultural economist, Sami Myyrä is senior economist and Kyösti Pietola is professor in economics at MTT Agrifood Research Finland, Economic Research in Helsinki.