An award-winning southwest farmer is turning to the new Omnia precision farming system from Hutchinsons in a bid to maximise efficiency across his 1,093ha (2,700-acre) contract farming operation.
Jeremy Oatey of Agricola Growers Ltd will be trialling the unique precision farming service this autumn and hopes it will bring together the array of variable rate and mapping information currently used to ultimately improve yields and save the business time and money.
“We farm across quite a large area and have big variations in soil properties which we’ve made big steps in improving over the 10 years since we started the business,” says Mr Oatey.
All arable land has been conductivity tested by SOYL to allow variable rate drilling with the farm’s Horsch Pronto and Lemken Solitair machines, and rotational soil nutrient sampling and mapping is also used extensively for nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.
“Every field is tested for P and K roughly every four years now and we’re finding it is really helping to pull up yields on the poorer land, while maintaining yields on the best.”
Yara’s N-Sensor is used for variable nitrogen applications and the naturally acidic soils are also now being regularly pH tested. The main drilling tractors are being upgraded with John Deere’s StarFire 2 GPS
this autumn after the system was successfully tested on potato bed formation.
“We’ve probably seen a 0.75t/ha (0.3t/acre) improvement in yields since we started to use variable rate and GPS
mapping technology, but I think there’s still room to improve further.”
Mr Oatey believes Omnia could play a key role in this by bringing the variety of precision farming systems together, allowing for more informed crop management decision making and sub-management of agronomy within fields to target specific problems of in-field zones.
“At the moment we’re using several different systems that feed into the Gatekeeper crop record package, and it all feels quite ‘bitty’. Hopefully drawing it all together will help us achieve a higher standard of technical performance and accuracy right the way through everything we do and give us more flexibility to make our own plans based on a variety of information.”
Hutchinsons precision technology manager Oliver Wood says the key benefit of Omnia is its ability to process multiple layers of data from a wide variety of sources and file formats in a user-friendly and accurate way that can then feed back into any variable rate application systems.
It is also fully compatible with Gatekeeper crop management software, allowing data to be extracted for analysis and variable application plans to be loaded back in.
“Systems that can record data on-farm are becoming much more widespread, so the issue now is increasingly about how you interpret and use that data to best effect. Omnia is an agronomist-led service that allows independent decision-making based on sound data from a variety of sources.
“Whilst Omnia can readily provide the full range of data gathering, sampling and analysis services, we are very happy to use data from a wide range sources. Omnia is designed to analyse, interpret and create independent agronomic advice on a variable application basis and therefore is not tied into any particular service or product.”
Omnia is a management planning tool which in most cases is used in the office due to the level of computing power required to analyse multiple layers of data, Mr Wood adds.
“The vast majority of rural areas just don’t have the strength of data connection required for any cloud-based package to work properly, let alone one with this level of processing. When 3G or 4G is more widely available in rural areas then I’m sure this is something we’ll look at doing.”