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Farmer interviews – the financial implications

A video containing interviews with farmers explaining the financial implications of using precision an digital technologies on their farms.
Do you think that the high-tech solutions are affordable? I’d say yes, but obviously we’re in a fortunate position where we’re not a tenancy farm, and we don’t have, I suppose, other people having inputs. So we are able to make decisions like that for our farm, which is incredibly– we’re very fortunate in that position.
It’s just making sure that you use whatever you’re buying. I mean it’s no point, obviously, of spending, oh, 6,000 to 8,000 pounds on just the GPS system, or however much it is, I don’t particularly know the exact figures. And then you’ve got to use the– make sure it’s all updated continuously. And obviously you’ve got to pay a yearly subscription to make sure it’s all, so that you can use it. So, I mean, I would say it’s justifiable, definitely, if you look at the bigger picture. But it has to be used properly to make it worthwhile.
It’s affordable in our system, because we’re making maximum use of it, and we’re on very variable soils with variable topography, so we can get a big payback from that. So for us, yes it is. But you’ve got to go into it wholeheartedly, and you’ve got to put a lot of effort and management time into it to get it up and running to then get the payback. If you had big square fields that are all flat with the same soil type in it, then variable applications are probably more questionable. However, going forward, it may well allow us to keep chemicals, because we can just do– and fertilisers– because we can justify that we are putting them where they’re needed.
If you can use the units for longer, then certainly their cost-benefit improves. But of course, there is an element of design obsolescence built into them. And so it can be tricky. [SPEAKING ITALIAN] If more and more farmers work together, they can then afford to buy the technology together, and then together, they become more efficient. But if every single little farm, or family farm, whatever, it’s much harder. I think a lot of agritech at the moment is affordable, and can be affordable, but I think a lot of agritech, again, is very expensive, and it is a massive barrier. It’s just a huge cost.
It just comes down to what parts of technology currently improve efficiency on my given farm, or my farm. And what I mean by that is every farm is different, every farmer is different, and it’s all about understanding where technology can help. And different farmers will have abilities to invest more in different technology, and they will do what they want to do based on what they see as improving efficiency and creating that better margin. Going forwards, do you feel that it’s a sustainable cost moving forward? So you’ve obviously adapted your system, and you’re making the most of it now, and do you think those costs are sustainable going forward for you?
They are for us, and I think we can do more with it. So as government help disappears, in terms of subsidies, then we will be trying to farm those fields with more intelligence. So if the far end of the field will produce 10 tonnes to the hectare and the other end only does six, then we will apply our inputs accordingly, and may well decide to use this technology to take out areas of the field that are not profitable at all. So yes, it is more than sustainable going forward. It’s getting more difficult when we go to site-specific or section control or variable rates.
It’s getting way more difficult when we come to this point, I think, because we hardly can prove it as a farmer, because we, at the moment, don’t have enough sensors, or not good enough sensors on our machines to really prove what we have done. We haven’t gone into precision farming in a huge way, the cost hasn’t been huge, and the benefits are there, but they’re generally for us reasonably small. So I think longer-term is where they’ll pay off, and as we invest more in precision farming machine technology, I think we’ll see the long-term benefit from that.

In this video, a selection of our 7 farmers discuss the financial implications of adopting precision and digital technologies on their farms. They discuss affordability and share useful tips for mitigating the costs.

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Innovation in Arable Farming: Technologies for Sustainable Farming Systems

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