Smart farmers

Background

Farmers and BayWa learn from smart farming project

BayWa recently started a smart farming project with 2 German farmers. These 2 farmers will serve as examples for other- smaller farmers who wish to adapt precision agriculture technologies, but are not sure how and where to start.

At the same time, the smart farming project will give BayWa a better understanding of the needs of smaller arable farmers when it comes to precision agriculture. Also, the project, where BayWa works together with 2 German arable farmers – Jürgen Rüdt in Ditzingen and Joachim Unger in Wilflingen – allows the company to develop and fine-tune existing precision ag solutions based on the experiences and results on the 2 farms.

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The project, where BayWa works together with 2 German arable farmers - Jürgen Rüdt in Ditzingen und Joachim Unger in Wilflingen - allows the company to develop and finetune existing precision ag solutions based on the experiences and results on the 2 farms. - Photos: BayWa
The project, where BayWa works together with 2 German arable farmers - Jürgen Rüdt in Ditzingen und Joachim Unger in Wilflingen - allows the company to develop and finetune existing precision ag solutions based on the experiences and results on the 2 farms. - Photos: BayWa

During the project the 2 farmers will use smart farming solutions from BayWa and FarmFacts, specialists from both companies will support them and give advice on software, machinery and agronomy.

“Many farmers are still at the beginning of the digitisation of their businesses. We selected 2 farmers that can serve as an example of how one can successfully start implementation of smart farming technologies”, says Jörg Migende, responsible for Digital Farming at BayWa.

A farmer’s bottom line

“Our 2 partners in this project serve as messengers for their colleagues; they can share their experiences with other farmers who want to start with smart farming. Also, we at BayWa will get an even better understanding of the level of service and support a smart farmer requires from us, and what smart farming adds to a farmer’s bottom line.”

The project started last year, and will last for several years.

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The Rüdt family in Ditzingen run an arable farm of about 200 acres. They grow corn, sugar beets, rapeseed, wheat, malting barley and feed barley. In Wilflingen, where the Unger farm is located, wheat, barley, rapeseed, corn and triticale are grown. They also keep 200 sows in a closed system. The Unger family takes part in the so-called ‘Förderprogramm für Agrarumwelt, Klimaschutz und Tierwohl (FAKT)’ of the ministry of agriculture of the state of Baden-Württemberg. Farmers who participate in this programme receive grants for implementing measures that help improve animal welfare and are environmentally friendly. Unger opted for measure F3 of the programme: precision farming to protect water and prevent soil erosion.

Both farms own many smaller fields, with an average size of less than 2 acres. Rüdt and Unger are both looking to improve efficiency by adapting variable rate technology.

Varying soil conditions

“Since soil conditions vary so much here, I no longer want to apply the same amount of nutrient applications all over the field,” says Joachim Unger. “This project allows me to try the various technical possibilities and find out what works the best for me.”

Jürgen Rüdt:

I think it’s important that we as farmers do a better job in showing consumers that the combination of technology on one hand and agricultural knowledge on the other lead to a more environmentally friendly agricultural system

The same goes for Jürgen Rüdt. “In light of the new German fertiliser ordinance I’m hoping to increase efficiency in terms of fertilisation. Fields that show varying soil conditions are predestined for variable rate fertilisation. However, for technical and financial reasons they should not be smaller than 2 acres. Also, I think it’s important that we as farmers do a better job in showing consumers that the combination of technology on one hand and agricultural knowledge on the other lead to a more environmentally friendly agricultural system.”

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Fields that show varying soil conditions are predestined for variable rate fertilisation. However, for technical and financial reasons they should not be smaller than 2 acres.
Fields that show varying soil conditions are predestined for variable rate fertilisation. However, for technical and financial reasons they should not be smaller than 2 acres.

NEXT N Manager Pro

In order to apply variable rate technology, Jürgen Rüdt is working with NEXT N Manager Pro. The software processes plant growth models, weather data, real-time satellite data and then calculates the actual nitrogen needs for every part of the field. Rüdt has already some experience using agronomical software and is able to partially create application maps himself.

Joachim Unger also uses NEXT N Manager Pro, but mainly uses GreenSeeker by FarmFacts, a crop scanner that uses sensors and is attached to a tractor. Experts from BayWa Technik support both farmers, answer their questions and assist in for example setting up the terminal for variable rate fertilisation correctly.

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Soil scans

Last year, Joachim Unger performed soil scans on all his fields using GPS, to measure the amount of nutrients. “I also measured the presence of micronutrients in the soil. I plan to repeat those scans in exactly the same spots 6 years from now. That way, I can compare the results and get a clearer picture of how soil quality has improved using variable rate fertilisation.”

Unger had the NEXT Farming Live software implemented, to which the results of the soil scans was added. Using these data, he applied the amount of fertiliser as legally required. In December of 2018 the GreenSeeker scanner was the used for the first time in his rapeseed field. “It was a surprise to me that the rapeseed had already absorbed such great quantities of nitrogen: 87 kg N/ha in the first field and 76 kg N/ha in the second.”

Joachim Unger:

With 120 individual plots of land, making 360 aplication maps would be too big a task

Unger also uses the NEXT N Manager Pro, in 6 different fields. “We‘re trying both systems so we can compare and find out what works the best in this particular situation,” explains BayWa crop consultant Peter Zoll. Unger thinks the GreenSeeker, combined with TalkingFields satellite maps would work the best for him. “With that, I just have to adjust the setting of the sensors before I can drive off and start fertilising. With 120 individual plots of land, making 360 application maps would be too big a task.”

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German farmers Jürgen Rüdt (left) and Joachim Unge take part in a long-term smart farming project by BayWa and FarmFacts.
German farmers Jürgen Rüdt (left) and Joachim Unge take part in a long-term smart farming project by BayWa and FarmFacts.

The main challenge for Jürgen Rüdt was exporting the data from the farm management system he was already using into NEXT Farming Office, a time-consuming task. “But we learned a lot from it and were able to build a converting routine that makes these data exports a lot easier,” says Kurt Herbinger from FarmFacts.

2 fertilisation strategies

Rüdt wants to perform the nitrogen applications on all his 6 test fields – 4 winter wheat fields, 1 winter barley field and 1 rapeseed field – using NEXT N Manager Pro. The first application was successful, he says. On 2 of his wheat test fields, he applies both variable rate and even rate fertilisation, so he can measure the difference and see how both fertilisation strategies perform. “I want to understand the algorithms behind the software. The goal has to be to constantly improve our results”, he concludes.

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