The “Five Golden Days” in the farming year are becoming easier to spot with hindsight, according to Catalyst Farming data scientist Dominic Swan, “The trick now is to ensure we are ready for them.”
The fifth Agri-Tech Week 2021 event was hosted by the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association and showcased a unique partnership of data sharing and benchmarking across four major Norfolk farming businesses.
Inspired by the discussions with a UEA data scientist at a previous REAP conference, Salle Farms Director Poul Hovesen became convinced of the value of data sharing and collaboration to improve farm performance.
And he set about doing something practical, convening a unique partnership combining people, technology and data.
Catalyst Farming provides analytical insights
The Catalyst Farming Programme brings together four major Norfolk farming businesses – NE Salmon, Salle Farms, the Holkham Estate and Raynham Estates – to share data and best practice, all empowered by the analytical insights revealed by unprecedented information sharing.
The aims are simple and clear: to increase outputs, reduce inputs improve quality of the products and reduce the environmental impact.
Newcastle University graduate Dominic Swan is the full -time data analyst for the programme, and Steve Baldock of Prime Agriculture is the strategic agronomist across the 7000 ha area, spread over 700 fields.
Pooling and analysis of data has revealed an optimum time window for crop establishment and where – obviously depending on direct costs and commodity prices – maximum gross margins are likely to be made, These are the so-called “Five Golden Days” – revealed by combining all the data sets and analysing the yield performance and price alongside the costs.
As well as hosting trials to investigate alternative practices, the programme data analytics are enabling the Catalyst farmers to calculate that all-important unit cost of production – resulting in a more granular analysis of the performance of individual fields, and total farm businesses.
And the data has enabled a shift in culture and attitudes on the farm as well.
Reduced idling time by up to 35%
According to Poul Hovesen, “One of the biggest impacts has been the education and empowerment of the team on the ground across the four farming businesses. “Showing the tractor drivers the data around idling time of tractors and asking them for their ideas to reduce it, resulted in a drop in idling time from 35% to 26% – and all without spending any money.”
In addition, a better understanding of field performance has led to a more resilient cropping system. Variability in the nutrition needs across fields has reduced as overall soils health has improved, and the extra time and capacity gained from increased efficiency enables more in-depth consideration of the overall farming system, the rotation and the crops within it.
To find out more about Catalyst Farming, follow them on Twitter @CatalystFarming.
This event was hosted by the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association.
Agri-Tech Week features a mix of in-person and virtual events that are designed to showcase exciting developments in agri-tech. It is coordinated by Agri-TechE working closely with partners across the innovation ecosystem and aims to provide opportunities to attract new customers and partners and to broker collaborations and international connections.