For Jeremy Green, the most effective advertisement for his agricultural contracting business is the straight and evenly spaced crops that his team of machinery operators create. For that reason, he has equipped his fleet of tractors with RTK-enabled guidance systems which not only ensure accurate field operations, but also help to reduce his customers’ input costs.
Jeremy Green started contracting in 1994, initially providing a baling and spraying service from his base at Blue Pump Farm in Bressingham near Diss in Norfolk. Today he provides a whole-farm contracting service across 1,500 acres as well as harvesting an additional acreage of sugar beet and cereals.
With kit to handle everything from cultivation, drilling and crop spraying operations to fertiliser spreading, harvesting and baling, as well as a bulk haulage enterprise, having the right kit for the job is central to Jeremy’s business philosophy of being able to deliver a first-class service to his loyal customer base, many of whom have been with him since the day he started out in business.
“I take great pride in the service we offer and get huge satisfaction from knowing we’re doing the job properly,” he explains. “As the saying goes, if a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well. My primary goal is to make sure each and every crop we grow is drilled as accurately as possible, with no misses and no overlaps. After all, the crops we put in the ground are the best or worst advertisement for my business.”
To improve the speed, efficiency and accuracy with which his team handles the workloads of more than 50 customers, Jeremy has equipped his fleet of tractors and combine with RTK-guided autosteer systems.
“The first guided system I ever used was a lightbar that I bought from Richard Reed of LH Agro back in 1994,” Jeremy describes. “It was a fairly rudimentary system by today’s standards, but it helped to make fertiliser applications easier, quicker and more accurate.”
Prior to the lightbar, Jeremy would mark out A-B lines for grassland fertiliser applications as he wanted to give his customers the best possible service. “From the very outset, I’ve based my business on providing an accurate and professional service,” he continues. “Marking fields out back then was a two-man job, but overnight the lightbar transformed the process into a one-man operation. Suddenly I was able to cover more acres and service more customers with less staff.”
From those early days of tractor guidance, Jeremy invested in three SIM-card autosteer systems. “That was as recently as 2009,” he says. “They were good pieces of kit, but we were constantly getting signal problems which slowed our work rate and affected accuracy. We therefore bit the bullet and erected our own Topcon RTK base station which we use in conjunction with three Topcon X30 screens.”
The control screens are shared across five tractors and the combine, with a sixth tractor permanently wired with a Topcon AGI-4 ISO autosteer system, making all the business’s tractors and implements capable of working to an accuracy tolerance of +/- 10mm. The RTK signal is also used by two neighbouring farmers who pay an annual rental to Jeremy.
Not only do the X30 screens ensure each tractor is working accurately and along the same A-B lines as other machines, they also make life easier for Jeremy’s staff. “Each time we take on a new customer or a new piece of land, we upload the field data to one Topcon screen and then transfer the data to the fleet. That way, everyone knows they are working in the right field and can tell in an instant which direction to work the field. It also ensures we know exactly what acreage we are working, thereby enabling us to provide accurate production data back to the customer.”
The screens also enable the section control functions to be used on all compatible kit without the need to purchase costly unlock codes.
“I’d already fallen foul of machinery manufacturers trying to charge between £600 and £1,000 to unlock the section control features of machines I already owned and didn’t want to get stung again,” Jeremy continues. “The Topcon boxes automatically enable me to access those features without having to incur hidden subscription charges which means we can now offer our customers section control when spreading fertiliser or drilling beet or maize. It’s another example of how we’re able to offer an improved service and means we’re able to reduce customers’ input costs.”
As well as making field operations more accurate, the precision farming kit has also transformed the way Jeremy manages his business: “In the past I found it difficult to delegate key roles which meant I was too busy and too stressed to manage the business properly,” he explains. “I suppose I’m a bit of a perfectionist. Fortunately, the Topcon kit enables me to put someone else in the driving seat and I know the job will still be done properly. With round-the-clock technical support from LH Agro, and a team of enthusiastic staff who have whole-heartedly embraced the precision farming technology, I’m now able to spend more time managing the business and liaising with customers.
“That doesn’t mean I don’t still do my own share of tractor work. In fact, it’s quite the opposite – the auto-steer and guidance kit enables me to indulge the big kid in me by allowing me to run the business from the tractor cab. I can be on the phone or sending emails while the Topcon kit takes care of everything else. It’s the perfect solution.”
Accurate autos-steer reduces input costs by 5-7%
Rob Thurkettle of LH Agro estimates that an accurate, RTK-based guidance system can save in the region of 5-7% in input costs. “By reducing overlaps, the savings on seed alone can add up to a significant amount even on relatively a small acreage,” he explains.
“When you factor in diesel, fertiliser, chemical and time savings, equipment such as Topcon’s X-consoles and range of autosteer systems can quickly pay for itself. And of course, by minimising drilling, spreading and spraying misses, there are additional financial gains to be earned from improved yields and cleaner, better quality crops.”