Farming by GPS at Harper Adams University
ULTRA-PRECISE GPS guidance is the name of the game on Harper Adams University’s commercial farm thanks to a unique partnership between the institution and a Shropshire dealership.
Out in the university farm’s fields state-of-the-art precision farming equipment is being used that would make the average satnav look rather primitive.
Three sets of GPS guidance and documentation mapping equipment have been fitted to the farm’s tractors thanks to a long-standing business relationship between the university and Rea Valley Tractors, which specialises in John Deere, a world leader in the field of precision farming, and has outlets in Shrewsbury, Newport, Welshpool and Sudbury near Derby.
GPS in precision farming is being used for farm planning, field mapping, soil sampling, tractor guidance, crop scouting, variable rate applications, and yield mapping. It also allows farmers to work in low visibility such as rain, fog/mist and darkness.
Not only is the equipment benefitting the university’s farm but also the farmers and agricultural engineers of the future.
Rea Valley Tractors has also been working with the university, which will see the opening of the new £2.93 million National Centre for Precision Farming in the autumn, to educate students about precision farming and help them get hands-on experience.
The university’s newly installed precision farming system also has the potential to be used to provide demonstrations and training in the use of the technology to Rea Valley’s customers.
Chris Jacques, from Rea Valley Tractors, said they had a long-standing business relationship with the university which was now supported in the main by the firm’s Newport salesman and former Harper Adams student Tom Shakeshaft.
“With the recent upsurge in GPS technology and precision farming practises, the farm had been making some very serious enquiries regarding the purchase of precision farming equipment for the university’s commercial farm,” he added.
“Subsequently a deal was struck to supply three sets of GPS guidance and documentation mapping equipment for the university farm tractors.
“Myself and Tom have also been working with the university to help provide precision farming education for the relevant student groups. This has provided a valuable insight into the world of precision farming for the students and is hopefully starting to form some base for what the National Centre for Precision Farming will aim to provide in the future.
“Myself, Tom and Rea Valley Tractors are very pleased to have the opportunity to work hand-in-hand with the university farm and the university in all ways and especially where precision farming is concerned.”
Scott Kirby, Farm Manager at Harper Adams, said: “Rea Valley have provided Harper Adams University farm business with a level of support and service over the years that never fails to impress, the service goes well beyond simply sales and repairs.
“It means that John Deere and Rea Valley are an important element of the team that are keeping innovation and technology at the forefront of the university farm’s work.
“More recently the relationship has developed further as Rea Valley and the university’s farm have worked more closely to establish a precision farming system on the farm which will provide a critical resource to support teaching and research particularly related to the National Centre for Precision Farming.
“In addition, the company has closely supported a range of precision farming field scale trials due to start this spring looking at the use of precision farming tools in forage production.”
Engineering lecturer Simon Woods said: “Chris Jacques and Tom Shakeshaft from Rea Valley Tractors have helped Harper Adams staff to deliver training on the use of a range of precision farming technologies including machine guidance.
“Harper Adams students taking the module Farm Machinery Technology attended classroom based sessions using a machine simulation package to provide an initial familiarisation with the state-of-the-art technologies.
“This will be followed later in the academic year by the chance to use the precision farming systems now fitted to the university’s farming equipment.”