Live life looking forward

I attended a training day this week where they had an inspirational leadership speaker and he said this, which got me thinking: “Live life looking forward but you will only understand it looking backwards.”

Many farmers fall into the trap of farming the current season as if it was last year’s. Lessons are learnt, usually the hard way and we forget that the conditions now would have been completely different last week let alone last year. I have been guilty of this, always worrying about the worst case scenario; spending more on the fungicides following an outbreak of disease in my crops the previous year. Hindsight is a wonderful thing but can we get away from living our lives by it. Can we become proactive rather than reactive?

The world of technology is proactive, advancements never slow. Take my original digital camera with its half a mega pixel resolution. Now, fifteen years on, I have a mobile phone with a 12 mega pixel camera and today I watch a remote controlled drone fly above my farm taking high resolution multi dimensional pictures of my crops at 400ft, where one pixel covers ten centimetres squared on the ground. This technology is how farming today is trying to be proactive to predict the crops’ potential, so that farmers can make more informed decisions about how much fertiliser should be applied or see areas under stress from lack of water, or even where disease and pest might be attacking the plants in the fields.

Drone picture - Brian Barker

Drone picture

Lodge Farm eMotion

This is high end technology and it is expensive to own and run.  The interpretation of the huge gigabyte mountain of data produced does come at a cost to the farmer. The images produced and the logarithms used in the interpretations produce a fascinating insight into how our farm looks from the air in this ‘multi dimensional world’ but does it tell me anything I didn’t know already? Yes and no; but these images layered together with soil scans, drainage maps and historical yield mapping data will hopefully, in time, start to show a few  trends and so I can become proactive in my crop management to produce more by applying less.

So, looking forward, technology in agriculture is here to stay and I will try to keep moving forward with it but we will only understand its worth when we look back after harvest to understand what it meant to the crops’ yield and hopefully I can change my approach for next year to improve my efficiency.



Brian and his cousin Patrick run E.J. Barker & Sons, a family farm partnership and contracting business in Suffolk dating back to 1957. The 667ha arable farm business is farmed on 12 - and nine-year rotations, incorporating winter wheat for feed, spring barley, herbage grass seed, oilseed rape and a break crop of beans, linseed or peas. Environmental consideration is crucial to the running of the business, and remains a key factor in all decision-making on farm.

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