State-of-the-art computer software is helping to equip Scottish agriculture students with the skills they need to become the farmers of the future.
A collaboration between Scotland’s Rural College, SAC Consulting and SoilEssentials, one of the country’s leading precision farming specialists, has seen the development of special student mapping software to teach the principles of arable precision farming.
Brechin-based SoilEssentials already works with SAC Consulting, part of SRUC, on SAC’s Soil Mapping Web-portal, which provides farmers with detailed maps to look at variability of soil pH and nutrients in their fields. From this, application maps can be created, allowing machinery to be programmed to distribute precise levels of lime and fertiliser.
The educational version has maps of pH and soil nutrients on four of SRUC’s farms, giving students a unique insight into how modern technology can be applied to 21st-century farming and consultancy.
Students at all campuses have been using the software to learn about how precision farming works. A group of 15 agriculture students at SRUC’s Aberdeen campus recently visited SoilEssentials’ headquarters in Brechin to find out how new technology like drone and satellite data could be incorporated into this software and used to make decisions on crop management in the future.
Alex Hilton, Lecturer in Crop Production at SRUC’s Aberdeen campus, said: “This is an exciting project which incorporates SRUC’s three core functions of education, research and consultancy. Technology and innovation is becoming increasingly important in ensuring that the farming community is competitive, profitable and sustainable. Soil Essentials are at the cutting edge of precision farming, so it is great to collaborate with them to create a special student version of their software.”
Jim Wilson, Managing Director of SoilEssentials, said: “We are delighted that SRUC have decided to introduce their students to precision farming using our software which gives students and staff the opportunity to understand more about the technology now available. It allows them to combine online precision agricultural tools with practical hands-on experience in the field, enabling them to see the full range of what precision agriculture has to offer in the 21st century.”