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Farmer interviews – successes with new technologies

Dr Alice Mauchline interviews farmers to discover their reasons for adopting precision technologies and what the benefits have been.
Could you tell us the main reason for taking on these new technologies? The first step was being curious about the techniques, being interested in how new techniques can help us to make our life easier. I think dad has really appreciated the fact, like, as soon as you have these technologies coming in, and it’s advancing farming, it makes farming look more business-like. It used to be family farms, and little family farms would sort of do bits and bobs and hope it went well. But nowadays it’s more of a, you really do have to knuckle down and really use what you’ve got and, yeah, use new technologies to help you improve.
It’s all about finding the bits of agritech that that can add up financially, that stack up financially. So if we find something that we think, well, that’s going to only cost x amount, but it’s going to improve our efficiency or productivity by y, and y is bigger than x, then we try to make that decision. But also, I think for us, it’s also that precision farming is now getting to a point where it’s getting easier to use, more people can be engaged with it, and potentially in some ways it is more affordable. So there’s a lot more standardisation around precision farming and agritech than there was, and it’s easier to get involved with it, and easier to understand.
If there’s one particular machine I have, I know the output needs to be at 25 hectares an hour, that’s what I look for. And we had a student on it, and I suspected he was going a little bit slow and not getting the output I was after. And we ran the data, and I think it came out that he was doing sort of 15 hectares an hour. I did the calculation, it had cost me 800 pounds. Him going a few miles an hour slower cost me 800 pounds over the day. And so the next day, I had him in, and I said “look, you know, I understand why you’re doing it.
But you’ve just cost– your going 5K slower’s cost me 800 pounds.” And he was like, “oh, right.” And that was something that I couldn’t possibly have either put a financial number on it previously, or even demonstrated it. That becomes very tangible if you can put a numerical value to it. Are you learning new things about your farming that you didn’t know before through the use of these technologies? Sure, sure, especially in the last few years with the help of satellite informations, or satellite data informations, sensor informations, especially on the combine in terms of yield, moisture, and now upcoming with the protein.
And this really helps us to understand or to see the effect of what we’ve done the last eight, nine, ten months way better than we were able to see this in the past. It was just the average of a field, whatever size, but now we can see it site-specific, and this is really helpful. It is very interesting, actually, learning about parts of the farm I’ve lived on for 25 years, and I didn’t know in, like, some of the corners of the field, some areas that just there’s absolute useless, to be honest, because they’re just, they get heavily compacted. Loads of things we can do about that, but as of yet, you can’t quite implement those yet.
Yeah, there’s so many different parts of the farm that I didn’t even realise had certain issues. I just thought that was– I just thought that was just the soil doing what it does. Have you already started to see benefits of using the technology on your farm? Yes, so, it has, rather than increased the yields, it’s evened the yield across the field, which therefore has then brought up our overall average. So it’s just easier to work, it’s way more precise what we can do, we can save a lot of input. And this I think was the important step, also to take the decision to go deeper, in way more details and types in terms of precision farming.
The one other benefit that I’ve personally seen with agritech is it is turning farming into a more scientific profession. And when you’re a farmer, you need to be a farmer, you need to be an accountant, a business manager. You need to be sometimes a solicitor, sometimes you need to be aware of what you’re buying, what you’re selling, you need to be a salesperson, there’s so many different roles. I think I see agritech as important in the kind of evolution of agriculture and the industry of agriculture. And not just making it more sexy as an industry, but also providing, giving it more tools for farmers to be more effective, because farmers are very busy people.
Whether you’re a tenant farmer, you own your farm, or you’re a farm manager of a big estate, you’re all very busy. You’ve all got different requirements, different pressures, but I think, or I’d like to see agritech as a huge driver for farm efficiency, but also farmer help, so helping farmers achieve all these different things they’re doing.

Dr Alice Mauchline interviews farmers from across the EU to discover their reasons for adopting precision technologies and what the benefits have been. Listen as they describe their reasons for adopting new technologies, find out what they’ve learned about their own farms and the benefits they’ve had.

Here’s a reminder of the types of farms they are managing:

photo of Erik Erik Jennewein: arable farm of 200 ha growing sugar beet, barley, wheat, peas and oilseed rape in Germany.
photo of Ben Ben Cooper: mixed farm of arable cereals; wheat barley and oats and extensive grazing beef in Wiltshire, UK
photo of Mel Mel Curnick: 2,000 acre arable farm with a poultry unit in the UK
photo of Simon Simon Beddows: 1,000 ha estate just NE of Reading, UK. Very variable soil type growing combinable crops on approx. 750 ha with a large environmental scheme
photo of Antony Antony Pearce: a joint venture of three family farms – a total of 3,500 acres growing combinable arable crops farms in the UK
photo of Valerio Valerio Vittorio Ventura: the company’s production includes extra virgin olive oil, monovarietal and flavoured oils, ancient cereals and flours, legumes, chestnuts, potatoes and various vegetables but also truffles, chestnuts and walnuts in Ascoli Piceno, Italy
photo of Maciej Maciej Szeptycki: South Poland, close to the Ukranian border. The farm is roughly 300 ha on very good quality, black soil. I grow vegetables; cauliflower, broccoli, onions and root parsley

Please share your own experiences of adopting precision and digital technologies and the benefits they’ve provided. There’s an opportunity to share the challenges in a the Step after next!

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Innovation in Arable Farming: Technologies for Sustainable Farming Systems

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