The main dilemma with high-tech digital analysis is working out whether the effort and expense is actually worth it.

But a system which seems to be paying its way is Xarvio, which is an offshoot of chemical giant, BASF. Available since 2019, it was officially launched at LAMMA 2020 and across the UK now has 2500 farmers making use of its analytical processes this spring. There are 45,000 users across 3m ha in Europe alone.

One farmer who has found that it is an ideal working platform, even for a small arable operation such as his family’s 145 ha unit in North-west Norfolk, is David Hurn, who also collaborates closely with a neighbouring business of about the same size.

He’s taking it fairly slow in using the Xarvio applications, with one field last year and two fields this year using it to set his management parameters. He is convinced that it has been cost effective for him, even though he is paying the top package rate of £500.

“For me, it’s been pretty good value for money. While it’s difficult to put an exact value on it, I’d say that Xarvio has definitely brought added value to my business,” he said last week, crediting its ease of use as one of the main reasons he invested in the system.

Assessing that added value is one of the tasks of agronomist, Anna Crockford, who has been running trials specifically on the system’s ability to ‘zone spray’ across 27 fields totalling 400ha, in four different crops and with 12 farmers from Fife to Essex.

She has been assessing Xarvio’s ability to target spray crop problems based on biomass maps produced by satellite imagery and historical yield maps, producing a variable rate application blueprint which it feeds to smart technology on sprayers.

Across the trial sites, this ability to use accurate dosing applicable to disease threat across field zones resulted in a yield lift of 0.18 tonnes per ha when judged against a flat rate application of the same products. Along with cost savings in the region of £12 per ha, this had a total beneficial economic impact of £42 per ha (assuming wheat at £160 per tonne).

Xarvio is a cloud-based digital analytical tool which brings multiple factors together to help farmers and agronomist make more informed decision making. This was especially useful for use in Integrated Pest Management practices which will increasingly become the norm on arable farms, said Xarvio’s UK manager, Louis Wills.

It takes multiple layers of data from weather stations, farmer inputs and disease threat levels to produce modelling that farmers can base much of their husbandry decision-making on.

Mr Hurn said that just a few hours work updating the system, produced easy to evaluate results. For instance, a recent crop walk had highlighted a yellow rust threat in his wheat fields: “The system reckoned the immediate threat was ‘low’ but will give me alerts whenever the threat level is raised by weather conditions.

“We’ll be watching how it models this threat to enable us to fine tune our approach to it and to take account of things like the spraying window matched to weather forecasts.

“Already, my gut feeling is that we will have to go a little earlier than normal with a T0 spray as once rust sets in, it’s really in – so we need to be ready to be proactive.”

He added that he hoped to be able to add variable rate management to his fertiliser strategy this coming growing season. “It won’t save a lot of fertiliser, but it will allow us to put on more where it’s needed and less where it’s not,” he added.

Xarvio has three ‘pay’ grades: A limited ‘free’ service status; a medium Field manager package at £200 per farm; and one with all the bells and whistles which costs £500 per farm, no matter the size.