Local farmers lead way in precision farming
The RTK Farming group plans to set up a local network enabling over 70 farms in the area take advantage of the latest precision farming techniques using satellite guidance systems across 160,000ha.
Edd Banks, who farms 1200ha in a family partnership at Manor Farm, Harlton, revealed the group’s plans to other local farmers and industry figures during an RTK Farming open day this summer.
“GPS steering systems have been around for a while now, but several competing systems have not made it easy to match kit, tractors and equipment,” said Mr Banks, an RTK founding member.
With a common standard now emerging, the group plans to set up a series of six base stations in the first year, with another six in year two. Doing so will create a firm GPS firm reference point for field operations.
“From the time the crop is sown in autumn to combining it the following year, every time we go back into the field, we know we can go back to within an inch of where we were,” said Mr Banks.
The technology allows more accurate yield mapping within fields so fertiliser can be applied at optimum rate and ensures that crop sprayers are automatically turned off when they come close to a watercourse.
Moreover because the tractor is auto-steered, the operator can concentrate on the business end of the machinery. Users can make significant reductions in fuel by ensuring that the minimum number of passes is made within the field.
The group is in the final stages of securing funding from the East of England Development Agency. “If we are successful, many more local agri-businesses could benefit from this exciting technology,” said Mr Banks.
“This is a landmark project,” says Giles Field-Rayner, commercial technical manager at Bayer CropScience. “It is a pragmatic solution developed by local farmers, and another step in addressing the sustainability of .”
NIAB TAG, the independent national crop research group, has been using the technology on its 300ha site near Cambridge for two years. Farm and estates manager Mark Leaman, said it had been well tested already.
“The driver can focus on the performance of the machinery and accuracy of the trials rather than concentrating on steering, which improves his or her working conditions and removes stress and fatigue.
“The accuracy and repeatability is phenomenal. We’re growing 65 different crop species here on the farm, in excess of 20,000 plots , so it’s essential we have an accurate system in place.”
Picture – RTK Farming Ltd: (left to right) Michael Sapseed, Mark Leaman, Andrew Crossley, David White, Edd Banks and Chris Ascroft.