Agriculture is an industry that has made giant strides thanks to its willingness to accept new approaches and new ideas, accepting new ways to do things. I am certain the need to embrace new technologies has never been greater. And neither have the opportunities.
Innovation can help us get more efficient. Consider how we milk cows. Robotic milking is the fastest growing sector of the industry, allowing many smaller farmers to develop sustainable systems, particularly where labour supply is a particular issue.
Think about the way we breed animals. It was only around 50 years ago that AI became the dominant way that cows are served. Now we have genomics to further accelerate the rate of gain while sex semen technologies are allowing farmers to rear fewer heifers and maximise the size of their beef calf crop with positive impacts on the bottom line.
Delegates at the recent National Farm Management conference were left in no doubt that embracing innovation and the use of data would be the key to increasing efficiencies and meeting some of the challenges facing the industry.
A speaker from the Small Robot Company stressed the need to change the way we think about arable production, arguing that currently all arable crops are grown on the average. The whole field is prepared the same, is sown the same, the plant is fed the same and sprayed the same irrespective of what is actually required. But every field has variations in soil type, aspect and a whole range of factors that will influence production and the resultant margin and profit.
With increased use of data it is possible to micro-manage seed rate, fertiliser use and agrochemical application, optimising costs and reducing the environmental impact.
Such developments may sound far-fetched and ‘something for someone else in the future’, but then again so did AI and robotic milking just a short time ago.
I openly accept that not all innovations apply to every farm but equally, I know there are innovations out there that will be applicable to many farms. The skill will be in identifying the innovations that will work best for you.
This must always include a careful assessment of the Return on Investment and the preparation of a detailed business plan, covering the practical and financial implications. In many cases early adopters of innovation have higher costs and a longer payback period so this must be borne in mind too.
As farms strive for increased efficiency, the well-planned adoption of new innovations will be a key part of a successful business.
If you would like any advice on the matter, please do not hesitate to contact me.
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