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Exploring precision farming, including engineering, technology and innovation in UK agriculture across crops, land management and livestock, our blog includes input from our broad sector membership and academic partners the length and breadth of the UK.
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The best Farm Business Managers review and plan ahead

In farming circles, November is normally the start of the winter round of conferences, events and a wide range of meetings from Business Groups and Monitor Farms to commercial companies showcasing their products for the coming season. Not so this year and farmer’s diaries will instead be filling up with invites to webinars, podcasts and virtual events – including Agri-EPI’s own webinar showcasing the benefits of technology at Parkend with Satellite Farmer, Brian Weatherup, on the 25th November.

Personally, I miss the face to face interaction of a “live” meeting, particularly in a smaller workshop format, where body language can signify so much and pull in completely different threads to a discussion. However, we are where we are and as Farm Business Managers it is vital to gather as much knowledge as possible from our peers and colleagues by whatever means are available.

In the last update I said that harvest has been varied across the country, but I hadn’t appreciated how varied until recently. NE Scotland has had a record harvest with average spring barley yields of over 8.5t/ha not uncommon and autumn drilled crops looking exceptional – yet a very different story in the south of the country. Whilst I have no doubt the weather is the main factor in this difference, I wonder if it’s the only one. Farmers in Aberdeenshire, where harvest moisture for wheat is regularly well above 20%, are used to growing cereals under challenging weather conditions – so are they routinely doing something different to mitigate the weather impact?

Perhaps the focus on virtual communication is an opportunity to “visit” a farm geographically remote from your own, see what they do differently and what areas could be applied to benefit your own farm. So when trawling through the on-line lists and invites, perhaps look to subjects and areas which may seem less relevant to your own farm.

November is also the time of year to carry out an in-depth review of the past season, whether it be crops or livestock – what worked, what didn’t work, what could have been done better and apply that to the planning for next season.

Opportunities for farm business managers

Another opportunity created by virtual communication is to use the time freed up to take this review and planning process a step further and look 5 years ahead. There will be significant changes taking place during this time initiated by Brexit, climate change and consumer habits.

Get your close advisors involved and have a think about what the farming environment might be like in 5 years’ time, how fit will your business be and what might you have to change to ensure you maintain a resilient business.

As the business environment will change, the level of technology available is likely going to change at an even greater rate and will be a key tool in maintaining a resilient business. You need to marry up technology to what you think your business will need to look like in 5 years’ time, investing in areas of your farm and business that you may not have considered in the past, but which opportunities have arisen through the combination of emerging technologies and changing circumstances.

There is one constant in business and that is change – you are either moving forwards against your peers or moving backwards against your peers – there is no such thing as standing still.

Change will create opportunities and by taking time to think and plan ahead now, you will be in the best position to capitalise on these opportunities when they come your way.

 


Gavin Dick

Gavin has a broad working experience in agriculture, having managed a large farming enterprise in Aberdeenshire including combinable crops, seed potatoes, pigs, poultry and 650 dairy cows producing milk for ice-cream through a robotic milking system. He then moved to manage an estate in Perthshire specialising in pedigree beef and combinable crops, as well as a country house hotel with shooting and fishing interests. Gavin worked at SAC before moving to AHDB where he worked with farmers in a Knowledge Exchange role to broaden their business management skills and, as he joined Agri-EPI, oversees all Satellite Farm Network activity.

Farm software solutions to enable farmers’ decision making

With national and international expertise and reach, our partners are drawn from throughout the UK and beyond, with hands-on farming, agri-tech and academic specialisms. We would like to introduce to you: Landmark Systems.

Landmark Systems is the market leading provider of farm business management software, designed to provide farmers with easy-to-use tools that help them stay compliant and make the right business decisions. They have provided award winning software and Mobile Apps to farms across the UK for over 30 years. Covering all elements of farm business management, Landmark helps growers and producers to streamline administrative work, while collecting crucial farm financial performance data – to form the basis of future business decisions.

Software product range

The software range covers financial, cropping and livestock records and can be used in the cloud or installed on a PC.

Accounts and budgeting

The KEYPrime range has products suitable for all levels of business complexity. From simple cashbook accounts, to large multi-enterprise operations with diverse reporting and user needs. The entire range comes with comprehensive management reports facilitating decision making and forecasting.

“You need to trust a program and that means trusting what it can do for you. That applies to KEYPrime Intro…. Now that we have [my son] Joe fully involved I have more time to embrace and enjoy what technology can do for us.” ~ Jim Dufosee, Wiltshire farmer

Crop records

Geofolia, with its Mobile App, is used by more than 23,000 farmers worldwide. Developed by our parent company ISAGRI, it provides growers with an easy to use tool to produce detailed information for example stock management and crop satellite analysis. Records are updated live from the field with a smartphone. Field, variety, crop and farm performance can be monitored with reports, or more visual on-screen graphs and dashboards.

“Compared to the platform that we were using previously, we have found Geofolia very user friendly. It also saves a great deal of time as staff can have jobs sent via their mobile with the highlighted fields, the machinery to use as well as any further instructions.” ~ Jeremy Padfield, West Sussex farmer.

Livestock records

Cattledata makes updating births, deaths, sales, movements and the medicine book quick and simple to do and makes light work of updating national databases. The newly introduced Cattledata Mobile App has already proved itself on farm and was a 2020 Royal Highland Show product award winner.

“Having Cattledata on my phone means I can see exactly what has happened to any cow. It’s a real bonus not having to rack my brains or go back to the PC. I am able to record things on the go, so I don’t forget them.” ~ Stephen, Inverness farmer

On-farm live accuracy software

Administration and record keeping are an essential element of running a farm business. In some cases, keeping these records digitally is required by law – the business VAT return for example. However, farmers using software across their businesses will equip themselves and their successors for the control needed in today’s uncertain economic climate. We aim to give rural businesses the products to make fast decisions based on ‘live’ accurate information.

The software is designed with three things in mind:

  • Ease of use | Technology should be accessible for everyone.
  • Saving time | Understanding that most farmers prefer to spend their time in the field, rather than the office.
  • Better decisions | Allowing the time spent on keeping records to help farmers make informed decisions about the future of their business.

Landmark Systems has dedicated local consultants, trainers and a telephone support team to ensure clients get the most from their software.

More information

If you would like to understand more about the on-farm software solutions on offer, please contact Landmark Systems by using the following contact details:

T: 01798 877100
E: info@landmarksystems.co.uk
6 Swan Court, Station Road, Pulborough, West Sussex, RH20 1RL
Open 5 days a week Mon – Fri – 9.00 am to 5.30 pm

On-farm technical support: introducing Emily Laskin

An interview with Emily Laskin, one of the Agri-EPI Satellite Farm team members who is focused on the technical delivery of on-farm projects. As Projects Assistant, Emily plays a vital role coordinating projects on-farm which includes proposing ideas for trials to farmers, handling day-to-day project activity on farm, sourcing data for projects, assisting with bid writing, and more. Another part of her role is focused on ‘horizon scanning’, which means that part of each day is dedicated to learning about new and upcoming Ag Tech in the industry. Emily Laskin is also the Project Manager on the Paraguay Smart Farm project.

Emily LaskinWhat does a typical day at Agri-EPI Centre look like?

“A typical day is a combination of meetings, calls, email writing, research, and other unique project organisational tasks. Pre-COVID, my team frequently travelled to networking events, on-farm meetings, and conferences as well.”

What has been the best part of your job so far?

“The best part of my job has been getting to know the farmers and getting to see all of the different forms of production across the UK. I love getting out on farm and seeing how each operation is unique.”

Can you tell me about any international work you have done with Agri-EPI Centre?

“I am the Project Manager for the Paraguay Smart Farm project and was lucky to have to opportunity to visit Paraguay in February of this year. The project is currently focused on trialling AgSpace’s Contour platform in the South American climate. The trip illuminated the unique struggles South American farmers face and how different their production methods are from those used in the UK. We were able to network with other Paraguayan companies during the trip and are hoping to do more work there in the future.”

Which research topics are you interested in or currently active in?

“I am currently taking a course on Regenerative Agriculture. I am very interested in how traditional farming practices can be used alongside agri-tech in order to cultivate the land in a sustainable, environmentally friendly way (while increasing profitability!). I’m also very interested in the carbon trading market, animal welfare and sustainable livestock rearing practices, and robotics.”

What do you think the next exciting on-farm technology will be that will make a difference?

“I think one of the areas of research with the most potential to make an impact is soil carbon and the carbon market. If we can figure out how to accurately measure carbon sequestration in the soil we will be able to identify ways of maximising carbon sequestration and thus make a positive impact on climate change. The carbon market will be a great way of incentivising farmers to utilise more sustainable practices.

I think agri-tech has the potential to impact carbon management, animal welfare, and improving yields on farm while decreasing inputs. Technology like satellite imagery and a wide variety of sensors can be used to make more profitable and sustainable decisions on farm.”

Are you doing anything outside of your role?

“It might be interesting which could be interesting that I am taking a course on Regenerative Agriculture by The Savory Institute!”

Which Agri-EPI capability is one to keep an eye out?

“I was involved in the procurement process for a WingtraONE UAV that is currently deployed at Elveden Estate (one of our Satellite Farmers). The drone is used for mapping the fields throughout the growing season. This type of aerial imagery can serve many purposes including providing the framework for variable seed-rate and fertiliser application. I think this type of technology has a lot of untapped potential and I’m excited to see how its applications evolve over time.”

 


Meet the team

With national and international expertise and reach, our team are drawn from throughout the UK with hands-on farming, agri-tech and academic specialisms. Learn more about working at Agri-EPI or meet other members of the Agri-EPI Team.