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Rural Advice

Working smarter with gross margin mapping Carter Jonas partner Mark Russell focuses on technology in this month’s Rural Advice column, while pointing out that a change in mindset is required where yield and profit per hectare is concerned. So, Brexit – what happened there!? What has happened is that, in the absence of the politicians making up their minds, the world has decided to get on with life. While, overall, for 2019, the amount of land having been marketed is 46 per cent down on last year it feels like the brakes have been taken off since the beginning of April. Our latest Rural View is full of the potential for robots being the future of farming. There is undoubtedly a place for this technology, but we also have to be careful to encourage and curate the best talent into the industry. Perhaps, though, we will see more diversity in the workforce – we need the IT skills to drive these ‘bots, as well as the practical skills of settling the herd or flock at the close of the day. Having mentioned technology, many clients have embraced variable rate drilling and sprays. We have now taken this to the next stage with yield mapping turned into gross margin mapping, linked to a system which integrates with your on farm information systems. Our director of Agribusiness, Jon Birchall believes this is the next stage of working smarter and will provide a more efficient way

to identify where income issues lie. The tool enables farmers to understand which bits of their field are performing in a financial as well as a yield sense and identifies areas that are under performing, over performing or average. Jon says: “I want to bring the best of technology to our farms so we can help, through improved farming practices, to replace some of the lost income when BPS disappears. There are a huge number of things we can start to look at.”

Margin per hectare Using the resources available through Carter Jonas’ GIS department, the team has been able to marry together historic yield maps and production costs in a single platform to create a net margin per hectare map. Putting a monetary value on every action is where Jon wants to get to; “Everyone is used to seeing nice fields with a single crop in them. I’m proposing that, in the future, a field could have a 16m stewardship margin adjacent to the hedge, with a 3m sacrificial strip adjacent to that for machinery to turn on, minimising the area exposed to compaction. Other stewardship options would be located on the regions of the

field which have consistently under performed, and can’t be improved. Yield per hectare is irrelevant, it’s profit per hectare that counts. I know that represents a change of mind-set, but I truly believe that’s what is required.” Jon is building a team of agribusiness experts across the country, with the need to assist farmers over the next five years to replace the likely hole in their accounts when subsidy is withdrawn. Locally, in Cambridge we are focusing on diversification projects and are really pleased to have this new tool in our armoury to help clients understand in more detail how each part of their holding impacts on their bottom line. Looking forward to ELMS, it should also allow us to calculate where, within a field, options under the scheme would generate more income per hectare than the crop-based alternatives. On the professional front, we are seeing an increase in the use of Planning in Principle Applications (PiPs). These are a useful way of starting the planning process without spending a huge amount of money on upfront designs and surveys. Where successful, they can increase the confidence for you or a developer to take a project forward to a full planning application. Mark Russell Partner, Carter Jonas Cambridge 01223 346628 ■

SHEEP WE DON’T EMPLOY THEM Whoever coined the phrase ‘wisdom of crowds’ was guilty of some woolly thinking. True wisdom comes from standing apart and challenging the norms. Which is why you’ll never find our team of extraordinary people merely following everyone else.

Mark Russell 07967 555737

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Profile for Farmers Guide

Farmers Guide July 2019