A forward-thinking farmer has teamed up with agri-tech experts to help develop drone technology to head off the effects of future labour shortages.
Paul Hayward, of Cold Harbour Farm in Yorkshire, is working with the Agri-EPI Centre in Edinburgh to find new ways to work more efficiently.
“Our business uses skilled local people. They are tech literate but there’s no doubt we’re not getting younger people through so increasingly we will face staffing challenges.”
A current project the farm is working on with Agri-EPI involves making better use of drone technology by extending the use and application of it – and Paul said the training supplied by Agri-EPI would be particularly beneficial.
“We can fly it and take some images, but it is all about making best use of those images quickly and translating them onto a piece of kit that will go onto the field and do the job.
“If you could feed that information from the drone into the controller for the fertiliser spreader, or something like that, it would be a great help.
“Drone technology could ultimately help with timeliness, precision application and, not replacing people, but making people’s time more effective.”
The drone project is just one of the collaborations the farm has taken part in since being introduced to Agri-EPI by LEAF – Linking Environment and Farming. LEAF aims to show that intensive agriculture is consistent with caring for the environment, and Cold Harbour has been a demonstration farm since 1993.
“A network like Agri-EPI, which brings together knowledge, expertise, innovation and funding know-how, is not just a mutually beneficial arrangement for our business, it’s necessary to make progress.
“Individuals just can’t do what Agri-EPI do, you just can’t. You have to realise your limitations. It’s got to be a team approach.”
Cold Harbour Farm, near Beverley, has been in the same family since 1889 and covers 300 hectares. It is a largely arable farm, with some beef cattle. The farm is also part of The Green Pea Company, a co-operative of 250 farms growing vining peas for the Birds Eye factory in nearby Hull.
An unused cowshed at the farm has also been converted into Calf House Studios, a collection of affordable studio and workshop spaces for local artists and craftspeople.