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  • Writer's pictureKate Stark

Advantage in precision farming


MODERN advances in technology continue to give businesses and customers an advantage in industry marketplaces, none more so than the agricultural sector.

John Deere’s precision farming technology has allowed Australian farmers the opportunity to undertake innovative farm management practices in order to expand and sustain their operation for generations to come.

Broadacre grain and legume farmer Scott Clark, from Jamestown in the mid north of South Australia, has been implementing a range of precision farming mechanisms since he first encountered the technology in 2006.

Running a traditional family farm in partnership with his brother Luke, with the support of their respective partners and children, Scott said the use of precision tech from John Deere has allowed him to see major financial returns.

“We’ve got 1300 hectares of cropping land where we plant wheat, canola, barley and fava beans and 400 ha for our self-replacing Merino flock,” Scott said.

“Parts of the paddocks are big, irregular shapes and, with the GPS technology we’ve cut out the overlap on our turns which is 50 hectares less than what we were previously sowing,” Scott said. “That’s given us quite a big cost saving.”

Initially investing in the technology in order to help his father Dennis during spraying, Scott said the family has adapted quickly to using their three John Deere 2630 displays combined with RTK receivers.

“For my brother and myself, it was pretty simple to get a handle on, but it was more about helping dad.

“Considering he’s 65, he does a pretty good job and for him to be sitting on a tractor, checking his emails and having it steer for him just blows him away,” Scott said.

Scott said John Deere has been with the family every step of the way, ensuring the Clark family are using the best product for their operation.

“The progression in farming technology is moving so fast and there are so many different options out there but we have found John Deere to be the simplest and most efficient to deal with so we will continue on that path.”

John Deere currently provide a wide variety of precision farming technologies so farmers can get the most out or their investment.

For Scott, maintaining up-to-date mobile data management, cloud storage and implementing automatic steering technology has become a necessity.

“It’s getting to the point where we can go even further with what we have and have individual control over spray nozzles and have automatic adjustment on seeding and spraying.”

The irony of uploading to an offsite ‘cloud’ is not lost on the South Australian farmer.

“We usually look to the clouds to check for signs of rain,” he says with a laugh, “Now we’re storing information in them.”

Using real time information to track gross margins through the mobile tracking application, Scott said he is able to clearly see where the operation is falling short and deal with any issues to avoid any loss.

“You can see whether you need to cut your losses in a particular part of the paddock or spend more on it to make it viable for production. “What you might think are better performing parts of your paddock might not actually be when you look at the figures.”

With their John Deere 8320RT and 8225R tractors, in conjunction with a S660 combine which incorporates a 635X front, a R4038 boom spray and an 1890 air seeder disc fitted to a 1910 air cart, Scott said the majority of the family’s equipment was already precision tech compatible.

“We didn’t invest in the technology all at once but we started with full auto switching and we’ve managed to build it up over the course of five years and now we have auto steering as well.”

The auto switching mechanism is connected to Scott’s GPS signal and coverage map he has set for the property, turning the seeder or sprayer off during turns to reduce overlap in the course of an application.

The Clark family operation now runs on a full three metre control traffic system with the tractor aligning itself to the same GPS coordinates every season.

“We’re used to it now but others might see it as a bit obsessive.”

Scott said the returns he has made using the John Deere precision farming technology has encouraged him to reach out to other broadacre farmers.

“You can use this technology at any age and it makes the days a lot less stressful because there’s not the concentration required in trying to see where you’re going - it’s already done for you down to the millimetre,” Scott said, adding the future possibilities for agricultural technology were infinite.

“It’s exciting to think these types of technologies will continue to evolve and give farmers positive returns along the way.

“We’re looking at the potential of the market to incorporate things like seed singulation technology, robotic weed identification and specific spraying methods instead of blanket spraying,” Scott said.

Finishing their last harvest back in December, the Clark family is preparing to plant their winter crops of canola and barley after a dry summer.

“Now, with this technology, it’s more about pushing ourselves to be able to use it to its full capabilities and not just what we’re comfortable with. There is still a lot of potential.”

  • Written for inclusion in a special advertising feature, printed by Fairfax Media.

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