Do you want to know the outcome of the 2018 harvest? Map of Agriculture has already made its predictions across multiple crop types, using numerous data points and in-depth analysis.
Forbes Elworthy (pictured right) is CEO of Map of Ag, which is a global organisation with UK offices in Oxford and Woodbridge, and is a leader in the field of sustainable agriculture. Forbes’ family has been farming in New Zealand for 150 years. It was the sudden loss of his father that led to a return to farming and Elworthy saw first-hand how understanding market trends is vital to profitable agriculture.
“I made a lot of mistakes, trying new ways of doing things and going away from my father’s belief that Craigmore was suited to one third beef, one third sheep and one third deer.
“We took it to 65 per cent sheep because they were profitable that year. But other farmers were making that same calculation and then the price of sheep went down. We are now pretty close to being back at one third sheep, one third cattle and one third deer.”
Forbes co-founded Map of Ag to help manage farming systems better. It has become a pioneer of real time predictive marketing for agriculture.
Map of Ag’s market insights are based on data from 74,953 farms, with more than 4 million observations going back to the 1994 harvest and up to 150 layers of insight against each farm.
Forbes explains: “We are providing market intelligence on the most important issues in farming. By identifying new market trends our clients are able to create effective marketing strategies.
“Increasingly, we see farmers and their advisors using incoming data feeds to get to grips with their businesses.
“We have been helping them to combine wide swathes of data into a comprehensive view of their enterprise, from which they can make better on-farm management decisions to increase productivity, manage risks and benchmark costs and best practice.”
He gives the example of Andy Venables, a Cheshire dairy farmer who used insights provided by Map of Agriculture to improve the performance of his family farming business with 300 head of cattle.
“In Andy’s case, we focused on two key sources of data: British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS) data containing his livestock inventory, and dairy portal data which contains production data.
“By merging these two data fields on Andy’s behalf, along with third party data such as weather, we not only helped him to understand his herd’s performance in more detail but also enabled him to produce more accurate milk forecasts.
“Tracking key metrics daily gives farmers an opportunity to adjust forecasting as appropriate. This can significantly improve milk revenues, as an example, as being 7.5 per cent above or below your predicted figures can incur penalties.
“Additionally, monitoring the weather provides an indication of, for example, a damp May when silage quality is adversely affected or a drier summer when buffer feeding might be required increasing costs.”
Map of Agriculture is also working with beef famers in the UK in collaboration with a large restaurant chain to promote sustainable farming.
Forbes explains: “Due to the data landscape of the beef sector we are supplementing on-farm measures with third party data, such as remote sensing data. We help the farm aggregate this to measure economic, environmental and ethical (‘3Es’) performance of their enterprises.
“This objective information is helping to change farmer attitudes to the benefit of the data and also changing farmer behaviour.”
Map of Ag is helping farmers to “take control of their digital future”. Insights from Map of Ag modelling include:
- Farm Structures Model UK – this was used to predict the rise in milling wheat and spring barley with consequent implications for input use (crop protection, seed usage and demand for fertiliser).
- The new six-row barley varieties are now performing better than the two-row (wild type barley) with yields equivalent to wheat.
- Precision application of fertiliser is likely to increase four-fold over the next five years, with an increasing focus on micronutrients.
- Precision approaches to livestock management are also increasing.
- There is increasing consolidation in the industry; compared to 1994 we are now modelling fewer farms, and farming bigger areas.
- Argentine harvest 2017-18 predictions (across multiple crop types also livestock production).
Sharing these insights with farms and agri-businesses is resulting in adjustments in value chain behaviour.
Forbes continues: “The founders of Map of Ag are farmers and we are eager to empower other farmers so they are in control of their data. The platform is designed so that individual farmers control the way their data flows to their counterparties and restricts the access to others – ‘It is the farmers’ data’. This is our vision for our industry.”
Forbes Elworthy will be speaking at the April Pollinator event ‘Trust, Provenance and Blockchain – impacts and opportunities for agriculture’ on 24 April at The Sainsbury Laboratory in Cambridge – read more information and book your place here.