Cost Benefits of Precision Farming

Speaker 1: It falls on me to bring you the last presentation of the day. Will precision farming pay? Wherever you are in the precision farming process, you’re always looking at cost and will it pay. You may be looking at what to consider when it comes down to the costs and benefits. This has all come about from the research review that was carried out by tag [inaudible 00:00:33] the beginning of this precision farming and be precise campaign.

What are the benefits of precision farming? You’ve got the economic benefits, getting greater return. We’ve heard about that. The environmental benefits and the advantages to the environment both from what we’re doing as farmers but what we’re doing over time, and I think it’s going to become ever more important, the environmental aspect of what we’re doing to the outside world, so they understand where we are and the cutting edge technology and we as farmers and as an industry are using to protect the environment. I don’t think the outside world really understands where we’re at, at the moment, and what we’re doing and what you guys as farmers are doing. That’s something we certainly need to encourage and promote a lot more.

Practical. What are the practical time, what are the practical benefits. The time, we’re getting the job done quicker and better. The demands on staff at some stage it’s a different skill set that we’re going to need, but the demands on time may be a benefit. Demands on staff. Farm and crop management. We can get better at what we do. We’ve heard all the management advantages of using precision farming techniques. Quality. We saw the map in David’s presentation of the map of the filed that wasn’t drilled particularly correctly. I can’t imagine that any of you would like to have a field like that or see a field drilled like that. You want the drilling done correctly and every operation after that done correctly. The pride in your work, the pride in what you do.

Traceability and insurance. A benefit to what you do and a benefit to the people that are buying your product. That’s going to become ever more important and tying in with that is the record-keeping. If we can reduce the time it takes to do all the recording and the record-keeping and the documentation, that has to be an advantage, because I can only see the requirement on that getting more and if we can use this technology to help that then so much the better. However, we got the cost aspect of this, despite the [inaudible 00:02:32] above the benefits. We got the equipment. There is going to be a requirement for investment in hardware, software, etc., whether that be licenses and subscriptions, maintenance and servicing, and training. I think every speaker today has mentioned training in some way, shape, or form and that probably is only going to get greater, the training cost. The trade, the return on that investment should be greater.

Setup time. As David has just mentioned, it doesn’t just happen. There’s a time to learn all about this technology and how to make it work. [inaudible 00:03:05] a lot of people. Is it compatible? There is a cost to that compatibility, of learning about it and making sure it all happens. Then upgrading down from one system down to the other. There’s going to be a cost associated to that. Potential influences. The Cost effectiveness that is inherit within the in-field variations that you’ve got, whether it’s there because if you soil type and the weather, etc. The weather is induced because of the way that you manage your variation in your field.

Farm size, there’s going to be a recognition of the farm size. The bigger your farm, the more you can spread the costs. We’ll look at that in a few minutes. The geography of your farm. Is it a flat farm, is it undulating, is it steep, whereabout is it, have you got different units? That will have an effect on the cost effectiveness of a system. What is your current machinery park? Is it available? Are you able to upgrade it? Are you in the process of wanting to replace it and be able to get equipment, this technology fitted to it straight away as a factory fit? Steer ready tractors, that’ll probably be standard on the larger tractors, and the horsepower availability, that will come down over time making sure that it’s ready to make better use of this technology.

Input and output prices. It is recognized that the best situation for precision farming is when bot input and output prices are at the highest. That’s when you’re going to get the greatest savings, that’s when you’re going to get the greatest returns on the investment that you make. The cropping system that you make, that will also have an effect on the cost effectiveness as will the soil type. What’s going to make precision farming suitable and a success on your farm? What will you do with your farming system the way that you manage your cropping, etc.?

Staff skills. Are your staff willing to learn about all of this technology and move with the times and adopt it? What are the management priorities to taking this technology on board? Are you allowing enough time to be able to make sure that you’re training the staff? Getting the correct information, working with the right people. You may have, as David suggested, have to allow a bit more time to that now than you were in the past of what you thought. Mind set. Are you clear in wanting to be able to get involved with this sort of technology and whatever it’s going to be able to present in the future and the problems and difficulties that may present. Faith. Do you have faith in allowing your tractor to steer you up and down your field when you may think it’s going in the wrong direction, do you trust that technology? Rather than manual override your trust and hopefully it will do the job well. Are you in that position?

Do you have your right support network around you? Dealers, service providers, software providers, agronomists, etc. Are you working with them and getting as much support out of them as you possibly can? If not, maybe you should get a little bit more. Attitude to risk. If you’re risk averse then maybe precision farming may not be the thing for you, because attitude to risk is actually a big determining factor. What is risk?

Thankfully, the U.S. Department of Agricultural Risk Management Agency, and what a lovely place that must be to work, have come up with a wonderful definition of production risks caused by adverse weather. Pests, disease, human error. Human error, are we reducing the risk by using precision technology because we’re not getting as much human interface involved during the process. Misuse of technologies. Is that an increased risk because we’re throwing new technology at people all the time and are we increasing that risk to failure and issue? However, seasonal yield variation will have a much greater influence on what you do on your farm rather than the spatial variability. Whatever you want to do using technology, if the weather isn’t on your side, then that’ll have a much greater influence on what you do. The risk is increased on that basis. If you have to work with the weather to get the best out of it.

What value for the environment and practical benefits of precision farming, and where are we going to go in the future? Greenhouse gas emissions and carbon credits, what value is that going to have to us in the future as farmers and is there going to be a cost associated with that in some way, shape, or form? I don’t know yet, but I’m sure that there’s various people thinking about that in the future. We’re able to assign a value to that in some stage. Water quality. We heard about that this morning from Felipa. Water quality, managing the environment is going to become more of an issue. What’s the cost of that? Doing that alone without increasing the returns to TSL. Are we going to see less available restrictions on fertilizer and the like? Who knows? If we adopt this technology that may not apply to us as if we didn’t.

Diffuse pollution. Less soil damage. We don’t want to see your greatest asset and the asset to grow your crops and get the returns in the water. We want to make sure that stays on the ground and we get the best value from it. It’s hard enough to manage on the land, let alone when it’s in the ditch, getting it out and that sort of work. We want to make sure that it stays on the ground.