Embrace Technology

By: Pat Thornton, Farmer, Consultant and part of the BASF Real Results Circle

Without getting too Thomas Standfield on you (Google him), technology can be a great servant but a dangerous master.

Some technology has proved itself a little binary, black or white, and in agriculture, grey is where the magic happens.

But, grey can be boring.  It doesn’t have the shine or lustre of high horsepower and sales brochure agronomy.  Grey has shades, 50 apparently. It is flexible and adaptive.  Grey has a plan, but it knows that you haven’t always got to stick to it. Farming is grey.

The epiphany surrounding soil health has been a surprise to me.  The fact that what is below your boots affects what grows above them appears to have been lost to many within 500kg bags, 10 litre bottles, diesel and hard-facing rods.  But, what has been the greatest surprise is how it has brought growers together, using technology as an ally to reach its objectives.

Whether you are a DD disciple or an inversion infidel like me, the call of a common cause has created a groundswell (I now see what they did there) in innovative thinking and rejuvenated good practices.  With a community led by farmers it has ‘called upon’ technology and built a great story to tell the supply chain and has proved the value of collaborative thinking and knowledge exchange.

Soil health is grey (not in a literal sense as you would be looking at a definite anaerobic situation) and, as that type of thinking cascades through the rest of our businesses it feels like we are blowing the cobwebs off and farming again.

Technology is going to be an invaluable wing-man over the next 10 years in agriculture creating resources that will feed a burgeoning population.  We must embrace it.  But, let’s not allow it to become our voice or farming brain.  Let it create pathways for real time decision making through farmer collaborations and a means of communicating what we trying to achieve to our growing ‘customer base’.

Writer biography

Pat Thornton has a combined career in agronomy alongside his own farming activities.  He has worked with ADAS, NIAB/TAG and AHDB and is currently one of the 50 farmers taking part in the BASF Real Results circle.  Pat now farms on the family farm at Low Melwood, Epworth, south Yorkshire, where the current cropping consists of winter wheat, winter oilseed rape, spring barley and spring wheat on what he describes as “pretty heavy” land, which is flat and lies only four metres above sea level.

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