I am just back from attending the AgriTech and Climate Smart Agriculture Conference 2019, in Prague. These events follow a pattern, a mixture of academics and policy people, a sprinkling of commercial suppliers and the odd token farmer. Some interesting new thoughts, ideas and products that we will of course follow-up. I was also visiting Pavel from Leading Farmers who represent our KORE platform in the Czech Republic. He uses KORE to create factor maps to further enhance his customers benefit from their N sensors and create pseudo yield maps for those without the technology.
What really caught my attention though, was a large company that I was, until then, unaware of. Spearhead International farm around 90,000 ha across five EU countries. Their origins lie in East Anglia and in innovation. The Green brothers were innovative birthing farmers who then built their company concentrating on wheat, oil seeds and milk. Ian Dykes, a Scotsman managing this business, spoke very well and went on to explain that they could no longer be in the first wave of innovation, but were more than willing to be early adopters. They have the scale to trial technologies properly and then to only adopt those that they can scale up. So what have they adopted?
With auto-steering on all their fleet they can clearly see the benefits and are now rolling out controlled traffic farming across the entire arable portfolio following three year’s trialling.
“CTF is not strictly about only ever running in your traffic lines. It is about never running over your land without first thinking about it.”
So they have a flexible approach. Working a 9 metre system, they are happy to take corrective action following field damage by pillaging deep at an angle. They yield map and soil map, variably apply lime, P and K based on soil sampling. However, they are as yet unconvinced on variable rate Nitrogen, but continue to test it.
In fact, they farm in a similar way to many of our SoilEssentials customers, but have to persuade their venture capitalist board of the soundness of every investment. Sounding a sceptical note, Ian reminded all technology suppliers to think how usable their solutions had to be. He also pointed out that self-driving tractors do nothing for the environment and the business, except removing even more people from the land.
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