Monday, 10 June 2019 08:55

Data will unlock the next era of farming

Written by  Cam Anderson, Xero’s head of agribusiness and practice strategy
Cam Anderson. Cam Anderson.

Xero’s head of agribusiness and practice strategy, Cam Anderson explains how technology can unlock the full productive potential of our farms.

No matter the size of a farm, most farmers talk about wanting to be more efficient and productive so they can spend more time doing what they love.

We throw around phrases like smart farming or precision farming but making changes to longstanding processes and traditional methods isn’t always easy. 

Using technology wisely is key to unlocking the full productive potential of our farms. It’s not just about what happens in our milking shed or paddocks. We also need to focus on what goes on in the farm office. 

We can get excited about virtual fencing, autonomous milking robots and other agricultural robots. They are going to take some of the heavy lifting out of farming, but only if we know how to use them correctly, and that all comes back to the data they are programmed with.  

Take drones for example. Historically, if you needed to check your fences, livestock or perimeter you would have done it manually, perhaps wasting productive hours. But by using a laptop, iPad or smartphone a modern farmer can operate a drone and finish task in a fraction of the time. 

Using the information collected, such as identification of irrigation problems or soil nutrient variation, you can proactively alter your farming plan to improve crop yields and so improve overall farm efficiency. 

The same is true of data collected in the office. If you have boxes of receipts and invoices that you or your bookkeeper are entering into your accounting system irregularly, then you are missing the advantage of live data. Timely data means you can make proactive decisions about your finances, improving your efficiency and leaving you with free time and peace of mind, knowing your decision hasn’t been made on a whim.

We may talk about the technology of the future, but first we’ve got to make the most of the technology at hand. Pulling together one farm team that can view finances, forecasts, crop and quantities, and track livestock movement and value in real time is a must. 

Implementing new technologies on your farm is exciting. But capturing real time data about your current situation means you have the foundation to take advantage of new technology coming down the line. It’s important you know what efficiencies they’ll drive and the impact they’ll have on your bottom line so that you can improve your financial sustainability. 

Well thought out plans and investments, strong forecasting and budgeting, and the use of reliable information are all part of good agricultural management. 

This is where digital platforms like Figured are useful for collecting, digesting and processing all of this raw data into something tangible. Its production planning and farm budgeting tools work seamlessly with online accounting software, Xero, enabling you to plan ahead with confidence and easily re-forecast when conditions such as milk payout change.

Whether the conditions are weather, crop yields or livestock numbers, you and your entire farming team can collaborate using real time financial data – wherever you’re working – because it’s all online. 

These are just some of the solutions you can see at this year’s Fieldays. 

• Cam Anderson is Xero’s head of agribusiness and practice strategy

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