A multi-perspective report on application of advanced farm information systems – economics, usability and acceptability

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Precision farming and the GPS-system have been prevalent in Europe for about 10-20 years. The early adopters started with yield monitoring and mapping and continued with variable rate application of lime and nitrogen. Later on autoguidance and controlled traffic farming have been adopted among farmers in mainly America, Australia and Europe.

The main objective of work package 5 was to assess the economic and environmental impact on farmers and in regions from implementing information intensive management systems, including precision farming. In addition the objective was to assess the likely acceptability of these systems among users and stakeholders. With this report it is the intension to summarize the findings from the overall workpackage and to come up with recommendations for farmers and society on using information intensive management systems.

In summary, the current status about precision farming and advanced information systems in agri-busines is as follows: Several precision farming systems have been available among farmers for the last 10-20 years. Farmers have adopted a number of advanced and automated systems for field planning and livestock management systems on their farms , incl. Automated Milking Systems, automated feeding systems and field planning/precision farming systems. However, farmers are still reluctant to encourage others to use many of these systems on their farms.

There is a variation in the use of office hours for administrative tasks but there is no clear picture about which are the farmers that spend less or more hours at the office. However, there seems to be a potential to reduce the labour time spend on administrative tasks by using information systems. In north Europe most time is spend on accounting tasks but also field planning and consulting/negotiations. In Greece less time is spend on average on accounting.

Findings also indicate that Auto Guidance results in a positive surplus depending on the percentage of overlap avoidance. Controlled Traffic Farming is the most economically profitable technology under our assumptions. In summary it can be concluded:           

  • That many of the system are, from an economic point of view, primarily for large farm units and holdings
  • Farmers with large cultivated areas spend less time at farm office per hectare compared with small and medium sized farms
  • Auto-steering and controlled traffic seems to have a significant economic and environmental benefits on large farms
  • Economic viability depends on site-specific yield variation
  • There is a potential to save time by using advanced information management systems
  • Small and medium sized farmers may gain from collaborating together to save time on field planning and administrative tasks. 
  • Farmers are still reluctant to encourage neighbour farms to adopt PF-systems
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