Inspirational ideas: Benefits and challenges of digital applications
information and communication technologies (ICT)
Danish farmer Knud Bay-Smidt started his own farm in 1987 cultivating grains, oilseed and grass seed on his 300 hectares of land. At the moment, he is using several digital applications. What are the benefits, but also challenges that he is facing?
Knud: “The Danish Ministry of Agriculture makes it very easy for farmers to get started with digital tools. For instance, they give free access to a programme called Crop Sat as well as some training to use it. Crop Sat enables you to download a satellite map of your fields, you can insert the desired amount of nitrogen for example, and it gives you the right amount of fertiliser. Another application that I’m using is FarmTrack. This is a simple GPS tracking device that is fitted to tractors and farm vehicles to track their movements. It helps to check if the correct amount of fertiliser is being applied on the field and at the right speed. The app can also be used as a notebook, so I also use it to mark the places in my field where I found weeds for instance.”
According to Knud, there are many benefits when it comes to using digital applications. “They give you more detailed knowledge about your soil, its nutrition content and yield potential. If you apply fertiliser very precisely, it can prevent overlap which minimises the risk of lodging.”
But using digital applications is also challenging. Knud: “The main challenge is that I have to use different digital tools. I only seed in April and September, therefore the tool I’m using for this is only be used twice a year, so it’s difficult to get familiar and fully master it. Together with this also comes the challenge of how to pick the technology that suits your needs, because there are many opportunities. Another thing I’m struggling with is the language that software developers use. They use a lot of words that we as farmers don’t use, which sometimes makes it difficult to understand.
“In my view, the best way to get started is to ask other farmers about the digital tools they are using. Internet forums are very useful for this too. Right now in times of the Covid-19 epidemic, digital technologies are also proving to be essential. My agricultural adviser isn’t able to visit my farm, so instead I have sent him photos of my crops. I also joined a webinar about software that helps to create prescription maps.”
“Always keep in mind, in the beginning it’s not easy to work with digital tools. You learn by doing. The capability to get the full benefits of the precision technology is an ongoing process and we have just entered it. Luckily, the suppliers of most digital tools offer some hours of training through a free training course, which makes it easier to get started. And, if you are not convinced yet, look at the digital success of the neighbouring farms.”
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