Farmers are continually striving to improve efficiencies and precision technology provides the means to do so, which is why Cereals LIVE is showcasing the very latest advances.
From data analysis and variable rate applications to the internet of things, this area is taking agriculture to whole new levels, says event director Alli McEntyre. “It is presenting solutions and improvements which were previously thought the realms of science fiction. The advances we are seeing in precision farming may seem futuristic, but not only are they happening now, they are commercially available,” she adds.
“Some of the industry’s leading experts in this area are going to be presenting online at Cereals LIVE on 10-11 June, sorting fact from fiction and giving the low-down on just how far science has advanced.”
The wealth of precision technology both on offer and in development is driving arable farming into the future, says Ms McEntyre. “Keeping abreast of the latest innovations can allow farmers to spearhead technology while also helping improve their own efficiencies in a world that is constantly pushing for greater sustainability.”
Remote in-field monitoring
The Covid-19 crisis has led to an upsurge in demand for precision equipment like remote field monitoring, according to Gottfried Pessl at Metos – the UK arm of Pessl Instruments.
“Every trip to the field costs time and money, but during the coronavirus outbreak it may be impossible to check on all crops,” he says. “Remote field monitoring systems allow farmers and agronomists to reduce field visits to when they are really necessary.
“Installing Internet of Things (IoT) technology on farms will help farmers and their agronomists to identify problems immediately, without needing to visit the field. In some cases, it may even provide greater accuracy than a visual inspection can reveal.”
Keeping ahead of the weather is a constant challenge for farmers, but innovations in precision technology are allowing for ultra-local weather measurements, helping growers to carefully manage field operations. Sencrop’s latest acquisition, Visio-Green, connects over 10,000 farmers to its weather data platform.
On-farm weather stations – which measure rainfall, temperature, air humidity, windspeed and leaf wetness – report directly to an app with local weather data 24/7, helping farmers to optimise field management. The data can also be shared within a network, allowing for a broader picture or localised information from other areas.
Being at the cutting edge of precision technology is often perceived to be expensive, but it doesn’t have to have a massive price tag. The latest development from DroneAg, Skippy Scout, aims to make farming more efficient and on a lower budget.
Designed to aid crop walking, the new app can be downloaded, connected to a drone and be fully operational in five minutes. “The drone will fly to set points in a field and take high resolution photos that are sent straight to the user’s phone – it’s faster than walking and you can check for weeds and disease, share pictures with your agronomist and identify problem areas,” explains Jack Wrangham at DroneAg.
“Our future plans are to build another level of automation, where the drone can be flown with even less human intervention and can help increase efficiency, reduce chemical loss and improve yield eating factors.”
From app-based innovations to mechanical weeding, precision farming is as much about new technology as it is about improving established practices. “Vision guidance for inter-row cultivation is quite well established,” says Nick Tillett at Tillett and Hague Technology. “But using the same system, we developed within-row weeding, and the next level is to identify and treat the weed with spot chemical application.”
Identifying weeds for this involves developing algorithms using geometry, planting patterns, positions, shapes, size and illumination. Additionally, applying product requires specialist nozzles positioned about 10cm apart. “It’s very promising technology, but the downside is that it’s relatively expensive,” he explains. “It’s not quite there commercially but we’re trying to make technology more cost-effective.”
Growers might be familiar with camera based mechanical weeding, but what about magnetic spraying technology? Again, it’s not new technology but MagGrow has optimised this precision application to reduce pesticide and water usage, and minimise spray drift by magnetically treating liquid pesticide and fertiliser. “It has financial and environmental benefits,” explains Brian Gorham at MagGrow. The firm will be showing off its latest kit in the Innovation and Tech demo ring – new to this year’s event.
Environmental preservation and chemical longevity are significant drivers of precision farming technology – including accurate spray applications.
Amazone’s AmaSelect range aims to minimise spray drift, reduce overlap and target spot applications. “We are looking at sustainable and responsible spraying techniques, to cut the volume [of liquid] used, have an environmental advantage and keep products in the armoury for longer,” explains the firm’s Simon Brown.
Using AmaSelect Row, growers can band spray rows and avoid bare ground in between. Nozzle spacing can be reduced to 25cm on the boom, allowing for band application on crops with a 75cm row spacing.
Uneven spraying on headlands can lead to wastage but CurveControl allows for even application as it reduces the volume of spray in the slower boom end and increases it to the fast turning end, while keeping the droplet sizes the same by automatically altering the nozzles.
For target spraying, AmaSelect Spot uses a weed map to switch on or off individual spray nozzles to hit the weeds.
The wealth of data collated on farm has grown exponentially in recent years – so much so, that keeping up with it can be a challenge. Joining up different data sets is key to getting valuable insights which can be streamed into decision support, says Matthew Smith from Agrimetrics – who will be speaking in the DIT Innovation and Tech theatre webinar.
Having an accessible marketplace to link different software is all part of this – which is exactly what Agrimetrics has done. “The support the farming community needs depends on the ability to bring together data from multiple providers and make it ready for analysis and decision support.”
Luke Halsey, head of Farm491, agrees that software interoperability and data aggregation is key. “As a farmer you want to know where you are performing well and where you can improve.”
Enabling different software packages to communicate with one another opens up far greater opportunities, he adds. “Within five years this will be common-place and the more data you have the more refined you can be – moving to lower inputs and regenerative agriculture.”
For the first time ever, the Cereals Event is going online to support the industry amid the Covid-19 pandemic, with existing exhibitors and sponsors involved for free as their fees roll over to 2021. Cereals LIVE 2020 will be held online on 10-11 June 2020. For more information and to register visit www.cerealsevent.co.uk.