Smart farmers

Background

‘Precision farming technology as a management tool’

Jacob van den Borne is one of the farmers who was nominated as one of the 10 most innovative arable farmers worldwide. He and his brother started with precision farming in 2006 and they have an eye for the best technology available.

For Dutch standards, Jacob van den Borne, his brother Jan and his father Louis run a big farm in Reusel, situated within a stone’s throw from the Belgian border. The family farm employs five people and farms on a little over 600 hectares, of which they own 200 hectares. Their main crop is ware potatoes (500 hectares) and they grow 70 hectares of sugar beets and 40 hectares of cereals. They also do contract work for maize growers. The farm’s machinery and washing and storage facilities are centred around the potato growing business.

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Jacob van den Borne (38) and his brother Jan farm a little over 600 ha growing 500 ha ware potatoes, 70 ha sugar beets, 20 ha barley and 20 ha wheat. His main tip for farmers starting with precision farming is to start with mapping the yield potential of their fields. make small steps. Right now, he would advise to use biomass maps from satellite imagery. - Photos: Peter Roek
Jacob van den Borne (38) and his brother Jan farm a little over 600 ha growing 500 ha ware potatoes, 70 ha sugar beets, 20 ha barley and 20 ha wheat. His main tip for farmers starting with precision farming is to start with mapping the yield potential of their fields. make small steps. Right now, he would advise to use biomass maps from satellite imagery. - Photos: Peter Roek

First step in precision farming technology

Just as many European arable farmers, Jacob’s first step in precision farming technology was gps section control on the sprayer. This was bought back in 2007 after seeing a 45 meter, six section sprayer at a big Dutch arable farm operated by an LH 5000 controller. Jacob’s sprayer, a trailed Dammann sprayer, had a 33 metre boom and 11 sections of each 3 meters wide. This resulted in the reduction of unintentional overlap from 13% to 1%. He got in touch with German autosteering company Reichhardt through Dammann. “In 2007, they were already capable of doing multilines, contrary to all main autosteer technology manufacturers”, says Jacob.

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Accelerate adoption of precision farming technology

Jacob explains how an industry and government funded € 6 million programme helped him access specific machinery and tools and to accelerate the adoption of precision farming technology, starting in 2009. “This so-called Programma Precisie Landbouw (PPL, precision farming programme) enabled farmers who invested in technology for Controlled Traffic Farming, fertilisation and crop protection access research funding for the amount of the investment by using so-called miles.”

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Since 2010, Jacob has used and owned several drones. He even has his own drone airport where other pilots can test and practice.
Since 2010, Jacob has used and owned several drones. He even has his own drone airport where other pilots can test and practice.

Drones

Jacob prides himself on being a forerunner and pioneer in working with the newest technology and concepts. This includes owning and flying drones (UAV’s). This was initially made possible again by the third run of PPL-programme and he has been using drone imagery since 2010. Since 2012, he basically bought one or two drones every year. In the same year he started flying drones with multispectral and thermal cameras. This enabled him to measure biomass and plant vitality better.

Founding an own airport

Earlier this year, Jacob founded his own drone airport to cope with the restrictions of officially flying bigger and heavier drones and multiple drones at once. Besides, the farm is not too far from Eindhoven Airport and it is also home to a Precision Agriculture Practice Centre supported by the Dutch government and Europe. This urged him to find a solution, so he applied for an official airport status for Agri Drone Port Reusel. He appointed an official airport manager, a former pilot, who is responsible for the communication about anticipated flights to the authorities and to civil and military airports. At the 80 hectare Agri Drone Port Reusel with three dedicated start and landing zones, every drone pilot is welcome to test and practice.

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Jacob is currently testing several weather stations and soil moisture sensors. He has been using similar phytophthora disease warning systems since 1998.
Jacob is currently testing several weather stations and soil moisture sensors. He has been using similar phytophthora disease warning systems since 1998.

Precision farming as a management tool

Currently, Jacob and his brother are at the verge of calming the urge to always operate and own the latest and newest technology. “I still am a technology and connectivity adept, but I am starting to wonder if that is always necessary. So, we decided to tone it down a bit, because we cannot automate everything on the farm. I have started to reinitiate the weekly farm walks my granddad used to do to monitor our crops and fields. I also aim at simplifying the farm operation and I am investing time and money in knowledge transfer. Both to our employees as towards other farmers to help them use precision farming as a management tool.”

Read the full interview with Jacob van den Borne in the digital magazine!

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