Wednesday, 29 July 2020 14:16

Latest tech keeps wheels turning

Written by  Mark Daniel
Turley Farms manager Andrew Smith says his bottom line is cab comfort and strong support from the dealership. Turley Farms manager Andrew Smith says his bottom line is cab comfort and strong support from the dealership.

The latest tech is being utilised on Canterbury-based Turley Farms.

Turley Farms is a Canterbury-based, family-owned enterprise that grows vegetable, seed and pasture crops – including wheat, barley, potatoes, white clover, onions, grass seed and carrot seed. 

The operation also produces hybrid radish, spinach, canola, sunflowers and peas for processing. During the winter, they finish store lambs, some dairy cow wintering – along with finishing some beef cattle.

The business is largely self-contained, backed by technology to keep the many wheels of its 12 prime movers rolling. The Case IH tractors on the properties run from 75 to 550hp. Many of these are fitted with Case IH Advanced farming Systems automated guidance, offering precision seed placement down to 2cms, delivered by Trimble RTK.

With this technology available, real-time data monitoring from the Vantage system offered by Trimble gives insight into farm areas such as soil moisture levels. Then, by comparing the results from a weather station reading, they can calculate soil deficit and crop demand.

For fertiliser application, each paddock is grid referenced and soil tested. From this a variable application map is created, which is then sent to a suitably equipped spreader. This then can deliver the expensive product at variable rates from 50 to 200kg per hectare.

Turley Farms manager Andrew Smith says his bottom line is cab comfort and strong support from the dealership. 

“It doesn’t matter what colour the machine is, or what bit of machinery it is – they’ve all got the risk of breakdowns,” he says. “For us, the key question is how well the problems are addressed when they arise.” 

Turley Farms’ Case IH equipment is supported by the local dealer Cochranes, who – in turn – are backed by Case IH NZ. 

When it comes to machinery and technology, Turley Farms looks for ease of operation. 

“Last year during harvest, we ran 17 fulltime and 13 overseas staff working on the farms,” Smith explains. 

“Five combines might be working simultaneously in different crops at the peak, feeding different crops or varieties of the same crop back to multiple drying and storage facilities – so attention to detail is paramount.” 

Preventing crop contamination is a real focus of the team, from the farm managers, agronomists, permanent staff, and seasonal harvest staff. Crop hygiene starts with the agronomists in the paddock, moves onto harvesting, drying and storage – then away to market. 

Given what’s at stake, particularly in the case of high value vegetable seed, crops hygiene is king. Turley Farms uses a large air compressor and an industrial vacuum cleaner to clean the combines, during crop or variety changes and at the end of the season.

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Lely offerings for the future

Dutch robotic specialist Lely launched a new farm management application called Horizon at its recent Future Farm Days 2020.

Designed to connect data from a range of on-farm equipment and suppliers into one management system, it creates a real-time decision-support platform, to make the farmer’s life easier, the herd healthier and the farm more profitable, says Lely.

Developed over a 24-month period, with over 100 test farmers in seven countries, working with 75 engineers, designers, farm management advisors, veterinarians and AI specialists, the new application will eventually replace the current Lely T4C management system. It uses smart algorithms and the cloud to deliver data that is processed into actionable information that is always accessible on any device in a user-friendly way.

Lely claims the Horizon application unburdens farmers from routine decision making and helps them optimise their workloads, using integrated routines based on easily scheduled cow ‘touches’, create logical and more efficient workflows. It is also possible to assign a certain task to an employee and to schedule a time slot for the cow touch, rather than analysing different reports and filtering long lists.

Horizon is also able to connect and combine data from non-Lely sources into a complete solution for the farmer removing the need to enter the same data twice, while scrutinising individual data streams in different applications will no longer be necessary. Currently, connections with farming applications such as Dairy Comp, Uniform-Agri, CRV and Herde already enable farmers to synchronise information about calving and inseminations between applications. Lely’s ambition is to connect with more partners over time, to hand the farmer more smart data.

To ensure full support in the migration to Lely Horizon, existing Lely T4C customers will be personally informed by their Lely Center before the end of 2020.

The migration is planned in a phased approach, from country to country, over the year 2021.

Also launched at the event, Lely Exos is an autonomous concept for harvesting and feeding fresh grass to the herd.

The company suggests that feeding fresh grass makes better use of available roughage, suggesting “fresh” has between 10 and 20% more nutritional value than grass silage, as there are minimal losses typically seen during mowing, tedding, raking, harvesting and feeding.

Lely suggests that feeding fresh grass over an extended season reduces the amount of silage that has to be conserved, reduces the need for concentrates and bought-in feed and increase the margin made on each litre of milk produced.

Based around an all-electric vehicle that mows and feeds, Exos is light weight and uses soil friendly technology, that can be exploited throughout the growing season. Design to work 24/7 as feed requirements change, the system places no constraints on labour or time, while it is also designed to work in tandem with the Lely Vector automatic feeding systems.

In operation, Exos also collects field data as it goes about its job, giving framers live data on grass supply and lending itself to a further concept of delivering a targeted liquid fertiliser as it passes over a harvested area.

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