Timeliness is everything in farming, says John Barrett, Director of Sentry and Chair of the Agri-TechE stakeholder Group. John will be giving the Welcome at REAP 2021. He is looking forward to hearing a discussion of where agri-tech to manipulate time could improve productivity and reduce environmental impacts.
John’s wish list includes:
1. Better forecasting to support establishment
To farmers make better decisions now we need better knowledge of what’s going to happen in the future, so technologies that provide forecasting and prediction will have a big impact. The difference between making a profit and a loss, especially with commodity crops, is actually the timeliness of getting the crop in the ground when the conditions are right. Conditions change so quickly from being too dry to too wet and that’s only getting worse with climate change as we’re seeing more extremes of weather.
2. Early warning of disease threat for timing of interventions
In terms of interventions, technologies that enable us to detect disease or pests in the plant, before we can see problems with our own eyes are giving us time the opportunity to react ahead of time, before it has an impact on performance. Technology that allows us to remove the problem during its latent phase of development before the onset of infectiousness could potentially have a big impact on reducing our pesticide usage because we’re treating it before the disease has taken hold, maintaining the plant’s health.
3. Application of knowledge of biological time to speed up crop growth
I don’t think accelerated crop growth is something we’re seeing yet. But it could have a big impact in future. If we can achieve the same yield from a shorter growing period, that can only be a benefit.
4. Automation to achieve work/life balance
We need technology to help us to improve productivity by replacing labour units in every aspect of the industry. You always feel that you could work 24 hours a day but physically of course you can’t.
We need to adapt our businesses to reflect the labour force of today, their focus on achieving a work/life balance is something the industry hasn’t always been keen to adopt. In order to achieve our aims we expect everyone to put in 100% effort but we must reflect how our staff value their time outside work as well as their time at work to help them achieve more in all aspects of their lives.
Ahead of REAP we spoke to a number of Agri-TechE members about their views about the biggest challenges associated with time in farming, and how to approach a solution to these challenges.
“I’ve spoken to farmers who are doing a 60-hour work week out in the fields and then they’re spending their Saturday afternoon dealing with the paperwork backlog…”
“Being able to advise the optimum time to apply nitrogen not only creates a cost-saving element for the farmer but also allows us to mitigate emissions, delivering benefits throughout the supply chain…”
“Farms have a huge amount of data coming in from farm management software, accounts packages, sales contracts, labour and machinery details, ranging from what is spent on kit through to how long it takes to get a field drilled …”
“Every generation half as many people are managing essentially the same amount of land, which means each person has a larger and larger set of responsibilities, less time per field…”
“The future of agriculture is all about making data-based decisions and much of that comes down to identifying exactly the right time to act. Crop4Sight is has been created to help potatoes growers do just that…”
“In Skippy’s first growing season, our users saved over 750 hours of their time using Skippy Scout. They covered more ground than they would have been able to on foot, reducing potential risk to their crops in order to improve yield overall…”
REAP 2021: Changing Time(s) for Agriculture – 10th November 2021
Imagine a world where agriculture is not constrained by time. The ability to manage and manipulate time is increasing and REAP 2021 will explore the advances in technology and breakthroughs in science that is making this possible.
REAP brings together people from across the agri-tech ecosystem who believe that innovation is the engine for change. The conference bridges the gap between producer needs and technology solutions and showcases exciting agri-tech start-ups.