Ideas galore at Bayfield Hall

More than 20 farmers gathered at the stunning location of Bayfield Hall to hear from 10 presenters and exhibitors taking about and demonstrating new tech coming to the agricultural market.

It was the perfect juxtaposition of old and new as Bayfield Hall owners Roger and Caroline Combe opened their 18th century manor house and grounds to visitors from the North Norfolk Coastal Group and numerous ag-tech organisations.

Those presenting included:

PES Technologies, which has developed an in-field soil health monitoring system that sends results straight to a mobile phone. The immediate accessibility of results means the farmer can make decisions about treatments almost instantly without the need to wait for results to come back from a lab. PES sensors provide multiple soil biology indicators and GPS, time-stamped results, which allows farmers and agronomists to understand conditions specific to a farm’s fields and the current situation – (weather etc).

As Seb Young of Ceres Rural outlined, soil health monitoring is necessary for government subsidy schemes, including SFI CSAM1 which pays £6/hectare or £97 per agreement.

 

PES Technologies sensor technology

Harvey Sherwin of Opico FarmDroid FD20 showed the audience the developments that have taken place within robotic seeding and weeding equipment. The FD20 is an innovative field robot that reduces the cost of drilling and weeding in an environmentally friendly way – it is energy independent, powered by solar panels and is CO2 neutral. It uses high precision GPS seeding to pin point the position of each seed, making weeding possible both between rows as well as between plants in the row.

Seb Young explained that the Robotic FarmDroid is relevant to SFI actions PRF4, robotic weeding at £150/hectare and SOH1 No-till Farming at £73/hectare.

 

Harvey Sherwin explains the benefits of the FarmDroid FD20

NNCG member, farmer and owner of Watatunga Wildlife Reserve Ed Pope demonstrated the multiple uses of technology within his own business. Entitled, Thinking outside the box” he demonstrated and spoke of some of the technology he has used, including thermal drones, thermal spotters, GPS tracking collars for animal monitoring, the Great Bustard, moveable buildings such as sand martin banks and bird hides, and remote wildlife CCTV.

Ed explained that the drones were used to check on the safety and health status of wild animals across the reserve but in Africa, the drones were also used in the battle against poaching.

Seb Young outlined SFI financial support for the use of drones to monitor crops. CIPM3 (growing a companion crop on arable and horticultural land) pays £55/hectare, OFA6 sees undersign cereal on organic land and this pays £380/hectare and SOH4 will see a winter cover crop following maize, with that payment rate hitting £203 hectare.

The spotlight shone on solar power as Will Palmer of BeBa Energy UK gave an honest assessment of the value of solar energy to farm businesses.

It is an approach which struck a chord with many in the room.

Palmer said that since 2010 Beba has installed over 625 systems across the UK and maintains over £150m of solar PV assets nationwide.

‘There are many things to be taken into consideration when developing a solar project on a farm and BeBa is highly experienced in identifying, mitigating and solving issues and challenges to ensure the highest quality systems are installed for their clients,’ he added.

BeBa work with their clients at all stages of the process from feasibility, design, installation and ongoing maintenance.

Being able to accurately forecast the weather is central to a farmer’s daily, weekly  and monthly planning. 

Sencrop has developed a weather monitoring system that uses local weather data delivered straight to an app so that farmers can make the best decisions based on precise, specific information. 

As Mark Herriman of Sencrop explained, the weather is so volatile and changes from one hour to the next, so relying on conventional weather prediction tools, which are updated every 8 hours, is often not precise enough when deciding whether to spray/drill/harvest or not. 

GroundTech and Electric Wheels both hit home with the gathered group as they had brought hands-on equipment for people to try.

Electric Wheels specialise in ATVs. While the current crop of ATVs are most suitable for work on estates, stately homes, visitor parks and large gardens, it is a case of ‘watch this space’. In the next few months, Electric Wheels will be supplying machines with higher power outputs and longer battery life, meaning the utility vehicles will be better suited to some of the farm work currently undertaken by diesel-fuelled vehicles. 

Groundtech is a local family company that has an expansive range of robotic machinery perfect for grounds maintenance. 

Talking about their products, Glover said: ‘Our robotic mowers are powered to deliver precision and perfection with every movement, the robotic mower is a flexible and versatile solution which allows you to set it and forget it.

‘Simply programme your mower with the area that needs to be maintained and the length that the grass needs to be kept at, and watch as it transforms the most mundane groundskeeping job into another tick on your to-do list.’