Farmers in Cornwall are flocking to use the latest satellite technology, says Cornwall Enterprise-led IT partnership actnow.
Advisors at the Objective One project, which has already stimulated UK-leading takeup of broadband on the county’s farms, are now reporting a surge of interest in “precision farming” technology, once the preserve of large-scale agribusinesses.
Belinda Waldock, actnow farming ICT advisor, says: “In recent months, we have noticed a sharp increase in enquiries about precision methods, like the use of GPS satellite systems to increase effectiveness and productivity.”
The project encouraging local farmers to make the most of new technology is being funded by the Rural Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Partnership under SWRDA’s “Modernising Rural Delivery” scheme.
RCP Manager Bill Holliday agrees: “We are now seeing farms in Cornwall step up to the next level in their use of technology.”
One such farm is Marsh Farm, Landulph: a 700 acre dairy and arable farm on the banks of the river Tamar, owned and run by Malcolm and Jane Best with their son Richard.
Having already adopted wireless broadband in through actnow, Richard contacted the project again in April to discuss extending the use of technology outside the farm office, through a GPS positioning and guidance system.
Richard explains: “I spent time working on some very large arable farms in Australia, where this sort of technology was commonplace, and I could see first hand the benefits it could bring to our own farm in Cornwall.”
actnow helped to identify suitable equipment, and provided funding towards the cost. After looking into various packages, Richard chose a computer display and GPS receiver for the tractor, linked to mapping software on the office computer.
“The tractor display enables a job to be accurately recorded,” says Richard. “Once the width of the unit and the field boundary are set, the system guides the driver at each pass and shows the ground covered including position, speed, total area and field size.
“This reduces passes and saves on average 10% overlapping, repeat application and highlights missed areas. Your position can be saved so you can return to a fixed point in the field after reloading. It also enables work to be carried out day or night, and in foggy conditions. The new system has really improved our efficiency and productivity on arable and grass land.
“We can attach a report for each job to the agronomist’s recommendations, to show the work is completed which helps with traceability, quality assurance and cross compliance. We can also map and record areas such as set aside for Single Farm Payment.
Richard concludes: ‘The information can all be analysed on the laptop helping us to plan future jobs and costings. There are a huge number of benefits. Now we really don’t know how we managed without it!”
David Rodda, of the Cornwall Agricultural Council, comments: “Precision farming undoubtedly represents one of the next big steps forward for Cornish agriculture. Until recently, it has only been cost effective for large farms and to see it being introduced in Cornwall is a prime example of how the industry is embracing technology to improve its productivity. Through the latest tools and methods, farmers can increase yields, reduce costs and save time on record keeping. These all contribute to improved profitability.”