As published in Grower October 2010. James Powrie and Dan Bloomer, LandWISE Inc.
Tim Macfarlane paid for his GPS in one day. Electronic recordkeeping avoided a chemical trespass fight and maintained good neighbour relations. Tim is working closely with FAR and LandWISE on a project called Advanced Farming Systems, which aims to research and extend new technology on NZ farms.
“This single event covered the cost of my GPS and control systems by avoiding legal action and the stress that goes with it,” he says. Tim grows sweetcorn, vegetables and seed crops on his family farm in Kaiapoi. Spray events are recorded by GPS, which tracks sprayer location and application rates.
An on-farm climate station also records data automatically. Using these data together, Tim can show exactly what was applied, when, and in what weather conditions. This makes it easy for him to complete industry and market quality assurance records such as New Zealand GAP.
“I invested in GPS to get agrichemical efficiencies. I wanted to avoid overlaps or misses, with their resulting yield reductions, and to get better coverage with less chemical. Proof of product placement is the icing on the cake,” he says.
GPS tracking clearly shows operators what has been sprayed, and what hasn’t. “Before GPS, I’d find myself at the end of a field wondering if I’d done that row or not. And GPS shows me exactly what is sprayed, where the last tank ran out, and where to start again,” said Tim.
Prescription application reduces the risk of chemical being applied at incorrect rates or places. And if errors occur, affected crop can be traced and isolated. Boom control avoids double spraying on angled headlands.
The benefits of traceability
Higher up the value scale, consumers are more interested in details of the products they buy. Marketers can focus on traceability to differentiate products and add value. A merino clothing brand encourages customers to trace their individual garment via the web. They can view detail on ethics and environmental policy and see the farms where the wool was grown.
Precision agriculture systems provide more staff accountability for job quality and make supervision easier. Records contain date, time and operator information so that details can be checked and followed up if needed. Real-time links can advise supervisors if plant or equipment operates outside specified limits via the internet. A manager can view in-cab operations from their office computer screen.
Regulation and demand for traceability can be seen as a burden or as an opportunity to improve your system. “When I have targeted one area of my operation for improvement with precision agriculture technology, I have found that other aspects get better too,” says Tim.
For more information on precision agriculture options and adoption, talk to LandWISE.
The LandWISE website www.landwise.org.nz contains information on current members, precision agriculture articles, resources and tools.
LandWISE membership puts you in touch with other innovative growers, industry folks and technologists, join at http://www.landwise.org.nz/join/
Visit the website to learn more, or contact James direct on 06 6504531 or 0272 757757.