As an engineer, I understood the concept behind it and oh boy, I wanted it, but I just wasn't sure it was financially viable. It was decision time, now or never.

Farm: Letham Shanks

Location: Scottish Borders

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

Land managed: 400 acres + 250 acres rented

John Cranston, Owner

Ninety three years ago, John Cranston (Senior) began farming Letham Shanks Farm in the Scottish Borders. Today, his grandson of the same name is still holding the flame, but with the help of a raft of technology that would make his grandfather’s eyes pop out of his head. Today’s John Cranston had 15 years’ experience in naval engineering before he returned to the family arable farm.

In addition to th crops John grows he will also trial tillage radish on fallow ground ready to plough down in January. Typically, the soil type at Letham Shank is a very heavy clay/silt and huge stone remnants from the glacial age are present throughout the land.


John was already aware of precision agriculture, but initially thought he couldn’t justify the investment for the size of farm. John’s views on investing in precision agriculture were changed however after an initial chat with SoilEssentials at Cereals Event in 2015. John explains, “The prices were more attractive than I had initially anticipated and I realised it was decision time; now or never.” And he hasn’t been disappointed. He’s thrilled with the accuracy of the equipment when cultivating. In the past he did this by eye, but now it’s spot-on across the whole area.

“I’d have to say that the Trimble EZ-Pilot is much better than I expected. It’s tremendous. I had 25 tonnes of fertiliser and it coped admirably.”

John only has words of fulsome praise for the help he has received from SoilEssentials. “Excellent, absolutely excellent. The engineer installed the kit and it was a beautiful job considering all the wiring that’s required. He took me out into the field to complete the calibration and testing of the system. I even had a telephone call to give me notification that there would be a new frequency to try in the spring. It’s wonderful to know that the support is there if I need it.”

John has a clear message to anyone out there considering whether to invest. “Whether you’re big or small, just go for it. You will not regret it. My neighbouring farmers are certainly taking notice and I’ve enjoyed giving them an insight into precision ag and its benefits. It’s all good.”


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