A SCOTTISH potato grower is using the latest digital technology to help reduce seed input costs, improve marketable yield, and increase profitability.

Sean Liddell manages just under 1000 acres of potatoes on land near Duns, in the Scottish Borders and by using the mobile app, Crop4Sight, has been able to reduce his input seed requirement by as much as 25% whilst maintaining saleable yields.

Mr Liddell started using the system in his potato growing business around three years ago to get greater insight into the development of his crops and help him to make better management decisions. Since then, he has achieved a number of efficiencies, including significantly reducing the number of yield digs he has to carry out, saving time and work during the growing season.

Mr Liddell said: “I’ve been using Crop4sight for a while now and the data it produces is invaluable for forecasting crop development. One of the most interesting things to come out of last season was that my seed rate, while good, wasn’t optimal. By inputting the relevant data into the app, I was able to identify areas of improvement and efficiency, and that will certainly be influencing what I will do for the forthcoming growing season.”

Mr Liddell said another benefit helped meet the tight size specifications for salad potatoes. “This year we grew around 245 acres of salad potatoes and the rest as maincrop varieties. Early on, we realised one of the major benefits of Crop4sight was getting early insight into the crop’s yield potential and when the largest proportion of the crop was up to size.

Read more: Scotland’s farmers and crofters need support to deliver high quality, sustainable produce

“This really helped in deciding the best burndown date. Sometimes this can mean leaving the crop a bit longer than yield digs suggested, which can feel counterintuitive, but it meant more of the crop met the size requirements and therefore a greater saleable yield.

“Of course, leave them too long and they’ll keep growing – it’s easy to get oversized potatoes. But Crop4Sight proved an accurate visual aid to help you make the right decision at the right time and it has had a positive effect for us,” he added.

It accurately predicted the crop’s development from first emergence, enabling growers to better plan crop inputs, labour, burndown, irrigation, and storage. Plus, it can benchmark crops against other UK growers of the same variety and manage customer expectations around size fractions, quality, and contract fulfilment.

The app recently added an irrigation module that Mr Liddell hads been trialling. It’s live water management system enabled growers to produce an irrigation schedule as often as required, allowing them to react immediately to changes in weather conditions. This helped ensure the application of the optimum volume of water for crop development.

Paul Coleman, managing director of Crop4Sight, said that Mr Liddell's experience was being mirrored by many growers who were embracing digital technology in their businesses. “Digital technology is starting to revolutionise agriculture and bring new efficiencies to businesses that have not been previously possible," he noted.

“With Crop4Sight, we wanted to create a powerful tool that used data and modelling to provide highly accurate crop forecasting to help agronomists and professional potato growers become more efficient. It provided total transparency across a crop, to the grower, the agronomist and, critically, the client, meaning the best management decisions can be made and the best saleable yield achieved."