Farmers across the South West are embracing cutting-edge technology and reaping the rewards with increased output and healthier animals.
Studies have shown that by 2050 the world population will increase by 30 per cent, but farmers will have the same amount of land.
Precision farming technology such as automated steering, yield mapping and robotic milking systems are helping to increase the accuracy and efficiency of farm operations, helping farmers to optimise inputs to feed a growing global population.
One of the ways in which farmers are embracing this technology is through ‘driverless tractors’, fitted with a Global Positioning System (GPS). Tractors fitted with GPS technology are able to plot their position in the field and plough a line that is accurate to within two to three centimetres, reducing cost and time while producing a higher yield of crops.
Cornish vegetable growers Riviera Produce is at the forefront of farming innovation, investing in the latest technology to maximise its harvest and produce the best possible crops for customers. Growing over 5,000 acres of cauliflowers, cabbages, broccoli and courgettes at Connor Downs near Hayle, Riviera Produce has invested in high accuracy ‘hands free’ tractors which are estimated to make £100,000 worth of savings over the next four years.
David Simmons, managing director of Riviera Produce, said: “GPS, with its precision technology, has improved the quality of cauliflowers, broccoli and cabbages we grow, ensuring our customers get maximum satisfaction from our Cornish produce. It has transformed our farming business by improving precision in the fields which has led to reduced use of fertilizer and pesticides with a more accurate application and faster planting times.”
It’s not just farmers’ fields that are benefiting from the latest technology. More and more dairy farmers are opting for automated milking and feeding systems to increase the longevity of their cows and help make their businesses more sustainable for the future.
Farming lecturers and students at Duchy College’s Stoke Climsland campus have been pioneering farming techniques of the future, most noticeably through its Spearhead Academy and Future Farm project.
Dr Phil Le Grice, head of Rural Economy at The Cornwall College Group, said it was important for farmers to embrace technology in order to make their enterprises more sustainable for the future.
“Humanity is facing some tough decisions; the world’s population is predicted to increase by 30 per cent by 2050, but we will have the same level of natural resources. That means farmers have to work smarter by using the latest technology to increase precision, ensuring that every part of their land is used productively and profitably.”
He added: “Our Future Farm project will rekindle the link between farming and academia; carrying out important research into milk production. The findings will inform industry and enabling it to work more efficiently with the aid of technology and research.”
ALL CHANGE IN THE MILKING SHED
Dairy farmers in the South West are also grasping the latest cutting-edge technology in order to increase efficiency, support animal health and welfare, and revolutionize the milking routine.
The most-up-to-date robotic, computerized milking parlors don’t just give dairy cows the freedom to decide when they wish to be milked, in the most efficient and streamlined way, but they can also closely monitor the quality of the milk being produced.
Since installing three Lely robotic milking machines two-and-a-half years ago, Devon County Show president David Parish, from Uffculme, has seen a transformation in the performance and overall wellbeing of his 170 Friesian cows.
The farm is also equipped with a state-of-the-art anaerobic digester that turns the farm’s slurry, ‘seasoned’ with some maize silage, into electricity, 40 per cent of which is used to power and the farm and the rest sold to the grid.
The robots have lifted the traditional tie of spending hours in the parlor milking twice a day, as the cows are able to move freely from the cubicle and feeding areas to the robots – where they are given a meal of cow cake as they are being milked.
The investment has also provided David, now 70, with a vast array of information and statistics on every one of his cows, including their yield and frequency through the milking machines.
As he explains, the herd have taken to the robot milkers and their new routine extremely well: “About 80 per cent get the hang of it after you put them through just once.
“The other 20 per cent might need showing what to do a couple of times, but they all get the idea.”
Source: The Western Morning News