Don’t be afraid of it. It’s merely another tool in the farmer’s toolbox. Say to yourself, I need people, I need soil sampling, I need machinery and I need precision ag products.

Farm: Backboath Farm

Location: Angus

Crops grown: Spring barley, winter barley, winter wheat, oil seed rape and potatoes

Size: 980 acres + 120 acres rented

Hugh Black, Owner

“Keep it simple, stupid!” Hugh Black has a straightforward message for anyone thinking of starting off on the precision farming road. “Prepare for an initial increase in workload as you learn and understand the product and know what you’re jumping into before purchasing.” That said, as the self-described “guinea pig” for SoilEssentials, Hugh has done a fair amount of jumping in himself over the years. “I’m often one of the first customers they approach when there’s something new on the horizon. I like to think I have an open mind and willing to try most things if it will improve my yield.”


With a young, active family he balances a growing business with a busy home life and approaches farming challenges by embracing modern technology.

Hugh manages two farms in the Carmyllie area of Angus that have been in the family since 1986. He first got into precision farming 17 years ago when SoilEssentials themselves were starting out. Hugh explains, “I knew Robert Ramsay and this led to being one of the first farms in the local area to have a retro yield monitor fitted. Since then it’s been an entertaining ride! I’ve watched SoilEssentials evolve from a fledgling business around a kitchen table into what it is today. What I love about it is that as farmers themselves, they do things as farmers do them, so there’s an understanding, a real empathy. I love supporting them.”

Hugh currently uses two Trimble guidance systems on the SoilEssentials RTK correction service, EssentialsNet and has now embraced EssentialsAnalysis – one of the newest services on offer. Although Hugh has held yield maps since the year 2000 it’s only since SoilEssentials analysed and prepared his report that he has gained a true insight into the performance of his fields and crops. He has consistently sampled his soil and this has led Hugh to apply variable rate lime since 2005, which has been very successful.

“My favourite product would have to be the Trimble guidance system – perfect for the average Joe. It’s simple and does exactly what it says on the tin. We bought it for one purpose and now have six additional functions and four different implements working through the system.”

Hugh is embarking on an exciting project and a new journey with precision farming – he has recently planted a nursery of 5000 honeyberry bushes which will allow him to produce, process, pack and go straight to market with the fruit. It will be several years before his new venture comes to fruition with its first harvest, but as a farmer with ambition, good things come to those who wait.

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