GIS Mapping: How it can help improve your farm business
Tim Michie is a Senior Rural Surveyor at land, property and business consultancy, George F. White. Tim has been involved in the rural sector for most of his life; he joined George F. White as a graduate in 2011 and has recently been appointed as a senior member at the firm.
Technological developments have really helped to improve efficiency across the UK agriculture sector and make the most of resources at a time where cashflow is stretched, and long-term forecasting is challenging. A Geographic Information System (GIS), is designed to store, analyse, manage, and present a variety of geo-spatial data. It is a technology used across many industries including farming, to increase productivity, improve decision-making and reduce costs.
For the farming industry, GIS technology has many benefits that can take guesswork out of production and enable farmers to manage their land much more effectively and, critically, get the most out of it to increase profits and support growth.
One huge advantage that GIS technology provides to farmers is that it enables them to farm very precisely. For example, every field is different and the levels of nitrogen, seed spread, amount of fertiliser, and yields can vary greatly. With GIS mapping, you can interweave datasets such as nitrate vulnerable zones, drainage pathways, fertiliser, crop and weed plans together to develop a strategic plan that can monitor and manage the health of your fields, the strength of your crops, and how best to treat them. This is because the technology can map these details and create findings that inform farmers about differences in soil types, weather impacts such as too much or too little sunlight, and drainage levels, to maximise crop production.
Another big plus point is that you can view all of this information on your phone so, if you’re out in the field drilling and need to check where, for example, your specific Countryside Stewardship Options are, so that you know where to drill to avoid any infringement of Natural England regulations and consequential penalties, you can do so, instantly. To give another example, if a spray contractor is coming out to spray your crops, you can refer the GIS data across to quickly identify boundaries, saving time and money in the prevention of over-spraying.
The benefits of using GIS technology are wide ranging and provide a good opportunity to help improve the overall function of a farm business. We are talking to farmers now about the role it plays in farming and how it can help them ensure their land and crops are as healthy as possible, to maximise output that can help increase their bottom line. With GIS, you have the ability to diagnose and classify any issues or problems and carry out interpretation, analysis and predictions, which can help farmers work smarter and run their business better.