Building business resilience is the goal of many organisations right now and nowhere does that apply more than in farming.

Adaptability has always been an essential trait for any farmer, but the rate and breadth of change has probably never been greater. The last decade has seen significant climate variability, and most climate models suggest more of the same.

Add in changing consumer habits, regulation, environment and carbon commitments, and there is much for farmers to ponder right now.

Advances in breeding and equipment will undoubtedly help, but digital tools could have a significant role too. That is why David Fuller and Tom Hoggan, of McGregor Farms, Coldstream Mains, are trialling Bayer’s Climate FieldView platform.

Their view is that future proofing the farm will be a combination of improving productivity on the better bits of land and utilising poor ground for other means. But making those decisions requires seams of data covering several seasons.

“You just can’t make decisions on one or two seasons. We need to build up a picture so that we can pinpoint areas for profitable crop production and how we can improve crop performance further. We also need to evaluate how we use poorer land more effectively. There is little point in putting a crop in the ground if growing costs exceed those that it generates,” pointed out David.

Improving crop performance further is something both David and Tom want to do. As early adopters of precision farming strategies, soil conductivity testing mapped soil zones, which led to variable rate seed, nutrition and liming, it had paid dividends for them.

Both believe this can be refined further. “We want to use the platform to look in detail at how we can improve this further. An issue across some of our land is moisture retention and we suspect our seed rates in these areas need to be a little higher. We’re probably not talking of significant gains but when added together they could be,” said David.

Where a program like Climate FieldView fits in is analysing those results. They like the ease of which data can be interpreted and the exactness the platform brings.

Last season they started a two-year trial comparing different OSR sclerotinia strategies. First year results didn’t reveal significant differences with disease pressure capped, but it did reveal the potential of Climate FieldView data capture.

“Whether you’re in the combine or the tractor you know exactly where you are. It makes evaluating on-farm trials precise and the same is true in data interpretation," he added.

"We used the split screen functionality of the platform to compare the harvest results precisely for each plot. It makes the task of comparing different treatments simpler.”

This is a great asset when looking at variable seed rates. With Climate FieldView selecting any field area is relatively straight forward as there is a menu of selection options including ‘click to shape’ polygon and freehand drawing tools. Using the cab app is even simpler as reports can be generated by just tapping a zone.

“We can pull out areas of the field where we have applied variable seed or nutrition rates and compare that against yield. It takes out any ambiguity when comparing variable rate applications,” they agreed.

Field health maps provide further insight for David and Tom. These show biomass on a broadly weekly basis. “We’re only at the beginning of our Climate FieldView evaluation and we can probably make more use of these field health tools this season. We’ve lost some detail to cloud cover, but they could highlight some issues during the season and are particularly valuable with variable rate nutrition.”

Despite still being on the learning curve with the platform, David has given access to various members of the management team, including the farm secretary.

“We’ve got various bits of data from various sources. Being able to share the data that the platform has captured will help Tom and myself relay information across the business. As we gain experience, we’ll do more with it,” he said.

Set up process wasn’t completely painless as there were some issues with their Agrafac sprayer, but David said that this had to be expected. “We’re looking at something new here and there was bound to be some teething problems. We’ve had set up issues with data capture and software products.

“What’s more important is the bigger picture. As we build our data it will be easier to see underlying issues restricting crop potential, and trial how we overcome these. We are keen exponents of YEN and this has highlighted that improvements can be achieved.

"But there is still plenty to be learnt here in the goal of closing the gap between actual crop yields and genetic potential. The FieldView platform will certainly enable us to monitor crops throughout the growing season better along with accurate measurement of crop performance from our trial plots.”

Bayer is extending its trial of the platform and the company’s Max Dafforn said that Scottish growers should evaluate its potential for themselves.

“A small number of prominent Scottish growers are trialling Climate FieldView across a variety of cereal and vegetable crops. But we hope to expand this so would be interested in hearing from anyone wanting to evaluate the platform on their farm.”

He said it had already paid dividends for many users. “One advantage of Climate FieldView is that you can access realtime data and don’t need to be in the combine or farm office to see it. A number of growers have already tweaked farm management practices this season. This has primarily been amended variety choices and drilling strategies.

“The platform allows for informed decisions to be made almost immediately. These gains have typically been small steps, but a 0.4t/ha gain in winter wheat yields adds up across farm area. It highlights the potential of what high quality, instant data can offer,” he noted.

Climate FieldView – A snapshot

The FieldView drive collects data from the combine, sprayer or tractor diagnostic port, with climate and field health information captured by satellites. This is held in a cloud-based FieldView account which can be accessed by anyone given authorisation via phone, iPad or farm computer.

The drive doesn’t just capture fundamentals such as yield, moisture, variety and application rates but also operation speed and location.

The field health suite tools provide in season insight covering crop biomass, rainfall and water usage, and satellite data which can be viewed as scouting, vegetation or true colour images. When creating a FieldView account historic field data is automatically uploaded from the previous four years.

Developed in the US by a Silicon Valley start-up, its potential in agriculture soon became obvious and the platform has seen significant growth since its launch in 2015.

In the US, some 49m ha of cropping area is managed with the aid of the platform and it is now a global agricultural support tool. In Europe, uptake has been rapid, being used in 15 countries, covering across 2m ha.