Friday 16 March 2012
There was a real ‘buzz’ among the stands and seminars at last week’s Precision Farming Event, which saw a record number of visitors looking to discover more about equipment and services to improve accuracy to help cut costs, increase efficiency and boost profit.
“This year’s high turnout reflects the current high interest in systems, services and technology,” says organiser Andrew Newbold of Fusion Events. “Although arable returns are reasonable and in some cases very good, input costs continue to rise. Farmers and contractors at the event were clearly looking to improve efficiency from simply steering in straight lines right through to using telemetry to precisely monitor and manage every operation.”
It was standing room only in all the seminars, which started with progressive farm manager, Jake Freestone’s presentation explaining how he takes a whole farm approach to precision farming. His detailed and informative talk not only precisely summarised how he puts all the elements to work on the farm, but it also highlighted many of the issues currently vexing many other visitors.
Indeed, if any visitor had any doubts about the need to measure and control costs his actual fuel cost figures probably confirmed the concerns of many. In 2004/5 the farm’s fuel bill was £22,540, last year this rose to £67,600. If predictions are correct, this could be up to £120,000 in two years’ time, he warned the seminar. Auto-steering on his tractors costs 49p/t, which can be paid for by 3.7% saving in fuel, he added.
After calculating your true production costs you can then do something about controlling them, he told the rapt audience, going on to explain how he uses soil sampling and mapping to then vary seed rates, nutrients and then map the results.
Technology to do all this and more was on show in the comprehensive exhibition, attended by all the UK’s main manufacturers and suppliers. Alongside a wide range of control terminals, GPS receivers and systems, visitors were able to also quiz suppliers about soil sampling, find out how to map fields to vary fertiliser rates, see systems to control sprayers and spreaders as well as a range of computer software to manage, map and record applications.
A growing trend is the use of ‘Apps’ for smart phones that no not only provide instant, in-field information, but can now also take a picture of a growing crop to assess the crop canopy’s Green Area Index. Launched recently by BASF and developed in conjunction with ADAS, the Canopy Assessment Tool (CAT) that uses a digital photograph taken on the mobile phone to accurately assess a crop’s nitrogen requirement and lodging risk.
This technology was on show in the new Advanced Technology Area, where visitors could also learn more about the HGCA’s Be Precise training programme, the plans for the new Centre for Precision Farming at Harper Adams University College as well as check the compatibility between different implements and controllers.
Indeed, advances in ISObus connectivity are progressing fast with a wide range of terminals and implements now built to comply with this international standard. At the Precision Farming Event visitors were able see how a controller or implement from one manufacturer was able to operate with another from a different maker. As soon as the implement is plugged into the special socket its operating pages load up and appear on the screen turning, for example, the tractor’s terminal into the machine’s controller.
Interest in remote monitoring and control is also growing with Claas explaining how its Telematics telemetry system, which is widely used on combines, is now able also monitor ISObus-compatible implements, as well as the tractor they are working with. John Deere also announced details of its FarmSight system that integrates its range of wireless technology and the ability to remotely view a machine’s GreenStar 2630 cab display, which will be available later this year.