Unlocking Farm Potential Through Data
Across the agricultural sector, the adage "what gets measured gets managed" rings true. But Henry Welham, YAGRO's Partnership Manager, believes it is more than just a saying—it is a direction of travel for the industry.
Henry was recently on stage at Larking Gowen’s Autumn Farming Conference to shed light on this perspective and its implications for the farming community, in the context of what farmers are facing in today.
Throughout this presentation, Henry underscores the vital role of data. Saying “we believe that it all starts with data” and proving that it often ends with data as well - with farm data supporting decisions across the full range of farm operations.
Engaging the audience, Henry addresses the current agricultural landscape. He highlights the challenges posed by price volatility, soaring production costs, and evolving policies.
"Decisions on crop selection and rotation are becoming more difficult," he points out, citing the volatility in both input and output prices, and reflecting on the increasing impact of these challenges.
Amidst them, Henry brings attention to the looming decline of the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS), which has left many businesses assessing their financial stability. He refers to DEFRA's Grower Survey, revealing that 68% of holdings are planning significant changes to their farm business within the next 3 to 5 years.
This led Henry to discuss the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI), which is “here to stay,” and he leans into how it will provide crucial additional revenue streams for growers. This causes decisions around land allocation, for which field level data analysis should be a core competent in consideration.
Faced with these enormous changes, Henry affirms that a solid route to ‘future-proofing your business” is through accurate data analytics. Letting your farm data lead decision making is the foundation for long-term success.
Farm data can be used to meet a variety of aims, including “reducing the risk of these volatile markets and improving efficiencies” at a broad level – but with accurate and accessible data, you are able to delve into variables that matter to you, to the level of detail you require.
Henry proceeds to offer practical advice on implementing a data strategy on farms. Beginning with data generation and urging farmers to evaluate what data they currently collect.
Most farms have pre-existing data available, removing any perceived burden of collection. This often includes production data (drill dates/rates), agronomic data (varieties/rotations), financial data (invoices) and telematic data (yields, fuel usage, etc.)
He neatly surmises that “the most important part of data collection is that you’re probably doing it already.”
However, "data is meaningless if it doesn’t have relevance or a purpose." Therefore understanding “how to make use of data to support decision making at the correct time is pivotal.” This is an essential takeaway, considering how decisions between one year and the next often get made across a few weeks.
It is about having access to data as the season progresses to manage costs, having the agronomic data accessible to support crop/variety choices, or having the year-on-year data visualised to maximise efficiencies across the farm; like drilling windows and clear budgets.
Continuing, Henry emphasises the need for a consistent approach across whole teams and advocates for investments in digital systems to ease the data collection, aggregation, and analysis process.
Importantly, the goal is not just data collection but deriving actionable insights leading to informed decisions. He affirms that machinery must be calibrated correctly, to ensure accurate data is coming in, and recommends secure cloud-based systems for storage.
“Farms seeking to implement a successful data strategy should consider combining hardware, software and human resources,” Henry says. Tools available today include software platforms like our own, but also advisors who are fluent in harnessing the value of farm data.
Work with data to “understand your farm in new details and to challenge your current understandings.” And “identify variables which could be limiting or driving productivity and have the tools ready to exploit new opportunities.”
In conclusion, Henry's insights highlight the potential of accurate data utilisation on farms. By prioritising data management and harnessing its value, farms can thrive in an evolving agricultural landscape.
The future of farming, as outlined by Henry, revolves around effective data management, ensuring that what gets measured, truly gets managed and propels farming forwards through efficiency and sustainability.
Watch Henry's presentation here:
Henry leads YAGRO’s relationship with the Frontier teams on the ground, driving adoption and advocacy of the MyFarm Analytics platform. He has a real passion for agriculture and a drive to promote new technology within UK agriculture. Henry is BASIS qualified and has a strong background in the agrochemical industry, with roles including crop protection technical specialist and potato product manager. He worked closely with industry advisors and businesses to provide unique solutions and advice to both arable and horticulture enterprises. He has an affinity for the value and needs of agronomists, farm traders and growers and enjoys building and maintaining close working relationships. Outside of work Henry enjoys travelling, cooking, playing rugby and socialising with friends.