Regardless of the number of acres they manage or what they grow, digital agronomy offers the way ahead for every UK arable or grazing livestock farmer at a cost no one can afford to ignore.
This is the promise of the new business launched this spring by agri-services leader, Origin Enterprises to help UK farmers make the most of an increasingly uncertain future.
Rhiza, which brings together the long-standing expertise of established digital and precision specialists, SoilQuest and IPF, is claimed to be the UK’s first fully-comprehensive digital agronomy business.
It has been created to allow UK farmers to take full advantage of whatever level of digital agronomy suits them best at the least possible cost. At the same time, it provides a seamless, future-proofed way of building their digital field management capacity at whatever rate and to whatever extent they wish.
“Digital agronomy is far broader and more affordable than the precision farming systems it has, until now, mainly been associated with,” stressed Origin head of digital, Simon Beck, unveiling the new business.
“In its simplest form, our system merely involves logging and automatically transferring geo-referenced field-walking observations to your farm records,” he pointed out. “All you need is a phone or tablet with GPS and the specialist Contour app. You and your adviser use this to record and share information and pictures on areas of poor grass or crop growth, weed patches, disease foci or, indeed, anything of interest or concern so you can target management action throughout the season. You can then relate these records to field performance and, if you have them, yield maps to plan future improvements.
“You can leave it at this. Or if you want further benefits with Rhiza you can, at any stage, add optical satellite imagery to give you the most regular ‘health report’ of every part of every field; radar-derived crop growth monitoring and yield predictions to improve your in-season decision making; weather-based local pest and disease modelling to alert you to potential problems; access to an ever-increasing library of precision farming and R&D data to help you plan improvements; and sophisticated soil mapping and variable rate management tools to make the most of precision farming.”
With more than 10 years’ experience in applying digital technologies to commercial farming, the Rhiza team includes no less than 45 digital developers maintaining and continually improving its services. A network of more than 20 local account managers has also been established to help members make the most of them.
“Already in use on over 500,000 ha across the country, our Contour platform employs the most advanced satellite technology with the highest resolution, newest sensor technology and greatest image frequency,” pointed out Rhiza programme manager, Andreea Ailenei.
“Using the Planet system for our optical imaging alongside ESA’s Sentinel satellite for all- weather synthetic aperture radar (SAR) monitoring , for instance, gives us a nine-fold higher resolution than other providers and much greater detail. It also means a revisit time of 1.5 days against a seven day standard for the greatest image frequency, together with the least cloud interference.
“We also make use of the country’s largest network of local weather stations for the most effective real-time information, and draw on an unparalleled resource of R&D data and aggregate information from more than 1500 UK farms.
“As well as offering the most comprehensive digital agronomy service available, we are committed to being the most accurate and innovative,” Andreea added. “With three main levels of service – Base, Plus and Pro – starting at just 50p/ha we are also by far the most flexible and affordable.
“At current prices, our advanced satellite imagery Plus service costs the equivalent of just over 7kg of ammonium nitrate. And even with the addition of crop growth modelling, yield predictions and pest and disease decision support tools, the Pro service needs a feed wheat yield increase of just 20kg/ha to pay for it.
“We have no doubt Rhiza will pay for itself many times over in the immediate opportunities it offers for arable and grassland performance improvement,” she concluded. “And it will become even more valuable with the extra facilities and services we are continually adding.”
“Immediately available and readily understandable real-time intelligence on crop growth and development, health and efficiency is increasingly important for the most resilient farming,” insisted Simon Beck. “Equally vital are well-researched tools based on accurate modelling to support improved day-to-day agronomic decision-making.
“As in so many other walks of life, digital technologies are the future here. With Rhiza, we are quite literally putting this future into the hands of every UK farmer today in a way they can make increasingly good use of in meeting the challenges of tomorrow.”