Time and time again we find ourselves repeating the same mantra. A farm using smarter technology is a more profitable farm. But knowing where to begin and what technology to implement is often daunting, confusing and hard to budget for. That is why we have compiled a simple and concise list of must have tech to invest in and precision farm practices to adopt to improve your farms profitability for years and harvests to come.
- Get a drone.
There is very little in the way of exceptions to this rule. The majority of farms should have at least one drone. Larger farms will often require more than one drone. But the rule of thumb is that every farm should benefit from having at least one drone. Drones on the most basic level provide farmers a bird’s eye view of their farms allowing them to identify problems and monitor other general bits and pieces. But with the right training and software drones can bring a high level of technical sophistication to your farm management practices. Be sure to check out the many benefits drones can bring to your farm by reading the other articles on our blog. Drones are seen as the ultimate tech farm toy. The truth is they are the ultimate tech farm tool. They bring innovative and effective farming methods to farms across the whole agricultural spectrum.
- Use your smart phone or tablet.
Agriculture technology companies are pioneering new and innovative ways of managing your farm data. None more so than with the many apps available to help keep your farm running at its optimum. This partners in so well with the drone as software installed can oftentimes feed directly back to your phone. This means that moisture problem your drone identified can be then resolved with the push of a button on your phone. Controlling your farms irrigation has never been simpler, and it can be done from the comfort of your armchair. Apps also provide you up to date information in real time. This means for the first time a farmer has every aspect of his farm as well as data from neighbouring farms at his very fingertips. Meaning that he can make the right decisions with the right information more often and more accurately.
- Live in the clouds.
Don’t worry we haven’t gone all hippy on you. Cloud services allow you to save all your farm management data. There are even whole farming communities that share big data with one another. This is also a feature on many apps as we mentioned in point 2. Having access to such a wealth of data enables you to see where others have tried, failed or succeeded and then implement changes without risking a financial loss. Wondering how to reduce the amount of pesticide you spend money on but maintain the same yield? Big data channels that kind of information and allows you to see which brand goes the furthest in real world scenarios. With farmers increasingly integrating technology with everyday farming practices it is now not surprising that the data being collected is done so passively. Meaning that farmers have to do very little data entry because the software does it all for them.
- Let GPS do the work.
Most farm tech and machinery comes with fitted GPS elements. This means that rather than sitting on the tractor it can be programmed to perform a function known as autosteer. Of course, this technology does come with a price tag and sometimes it can be hard to quantify the actual return on investment but we endorse this for a few reasons. Firstly, it frees up your time to concentrate on things that might otherwise have been put off until another day. This means you may actually have time to tackle that problem field or time to fix that old piece of machinery so it can be sold. Whatever it may be, there are often smaller less profitable (but profitable none-the-less) tasks that get put to one side and needn’t be going forward. Secondly, farm machinery although having been refined for centuries is not always the most practical machinery for humans to operate. Many injuries around farms come from operating machinery, in some cases these accidents are severe or fatal. Autosteer immediately negates the risk of unpleasant accidents and puts you back in the driver seat of maintaining your good health.
- Monitor those yields.
In much the same way that a racing driver monitors his lap-times, a farmer should be monitoring his yields. The key is to document the yields and get to the maximum potential yield (every farm has a yield ceiling) and stay there consistently. Yield monitors come in many shapes and sizes now, but over time they have proved themselves invaluable to farmers that are targeting a precision managed farm. There is even software that can be patched to your drone that will create a yield forecast based on the visual results that the drone processes. Yield monitoring has been around for a while but the techniques are always improving and without doubt it is something all farmers should invest in.
- Variable rate fertilizer.
This is a practice that has been around for a while on the precision agriculture scene. Farmers essentially test the nutrient content of areas of their fields and lay down the fertilizer in the places it is need most at higher quantities. In places where the soil is nutrient rich and not requiring as much attention the fertilizer is used in a more sparing manner. This still results in the same amount of fertilizer being used but contributes to a far more consistent soil quality across the total land and in turn produces a greater overall yield. Sometimes the simple methods pay the most dividends. There are now new technologies available that allow a quicker measurement of soil nutritional levels to be taken which further enhances the process.
- Variable rate seeding.
In much the same vain as variable rate fertilizing this process allows farmers to concentrate on seeding the areas that most need seeding. Leaving other parts of the field that require less seeds to produce good yields with less seeds being sown. Some farmers have focused their seeding on the specific high yield locations only and found that growing in a more focused way means they achieve the same yield or greater but with a fraction of the seeds ordinarily used. This is technical farm management and requires a lot of good reliable data as well as meticulous planning and good seeder technology to make sure that wastage is at an absolute minimum.
- Automatic Section Control.
Remember earlier we mentioned irrigation at the push of a button? Well this is the pinnacle of that technology. It is also becoming more and more affordable as the technology develops. This means that your farm is organised into sections and then using software enables you to control on an automated basis what happens in what section and when. Simply put, it means you can tell your sprinklers to be on in section A at 7pm with the fall of the evening sun. And as the sun sets further into section B, section A switches off and B begins. This means that water is used where it is needed and when it is needed. Automatic Section Control does have many more complexities and performs more than a simple timer for your sprinkler system but for the purposes of brevity and simplicity we will say it is must have tech, it is increasingly affordable and you should really consider reading up on it and investing in it.
That is our 8 main precision practices and technologies that we recommend trying to adopt as much as possible into your daily farm management. We specifically chose those ideas that are easily implemented into your farming routine that will not only allow you the freedom to concentrate on farming tasks where technology is still behind but also improve yields. A farmer that puts technology at the centre of his business model and then utilises it correctly is a farmer that succeeds where others fail. Yield improvements increase year on year and become sustainable enough to model a growth forecast. Allowing further investment. Eventually a farm could in theory be run from an office with little to no exertion, while we believe this is in the future we are sure it is in the not so distant future. Farms that have failed to integrate with the technology will fall behind, become unprofitable, become untenable and become obsolete. This is why precision agriculture should be at the absolute forefront of every modern farmers mind. Securing your farms legacy for future generations has never been so important as it is now, but with our guidance and smart investment it has never been so simple either.