Positive change is impacting on agriculture at an exponential rate. As a consequence, farming is fast-becoming a very exact science.
A case in point was Wilson’s Country’s unveiling of the company’s new anaerobic digestion (AD) plant in Co Armagh last week.
The 250kW facility will produce all the green electricity needed by the potato packer and processer from a combination of potato peelings, slurry and grass silage.
Significantly, though, the additional heat produced by the system’s combined heat and power plant will be used to maintain both the digester and digestate tanks within the plant at a temperature of around 50°C.
By taking this approach, additional volumes of gas will be produced from the stored digestate.
In turn, this will help to further convert this material into a bespoke liquid fertiliser for use in growing potato crops. It’s all very ‘high tech’.
Meanwhile students at Grasten Agricultural College in Denmark have access to a robotic milking system that has a range of additional features, all designed to make cow management so much more effective.
These include auto drafting, a hoof-washing facility and the provision of real-time somatic cell count (SCC) data; not the standard milk resistance figures.
Driving all of this is the recognition that our farmers of the future must be able to do two things well – gather efficient data on the real-time performance of their businesses and, thereafter, to interpret what all of this means, from a management perspective.
Denmark is also looking at a number of technical developments within the tillage sector, focused on the use of enhanced satellite imagery of individual fields.
As a consequence, real-time assessments of biomass production levels within crops can be communicated to farmers.
This approach facilitates the compilation of more accurate advisory messages to farmers, again on a real-time basis.
The end result of all this is the more effective use of fertilisers and plant chemicals.
Rowers can avail of this service on the back of an agreed annual fee.
It’s an approach to crop production that makes available the very latest Global Position Satellite (GPS) satellite technologies to farmers at a realistic cost.
So yes, the appliance of science is very much the future where the development of production agriculture is concerned.
But it’s one thing to amass large quantities of data; the real challenge is that of making this information available to farmers in easy-to-understand ways that can allow them to make quick and effective decisions, where the management of their businesses is concerned.