'˜Airbnb for machinery' targets tech-savvy farmers

A new internet-based service has been launched to help farmers gain access to a far wider pool of equipment than offered by traditional machinery rings.

Farm-r will let farmers share machinery at the click of a button. Picture: Michael Gillen
Farm-r will let farmers share machinery at the click of a button. Picture: Michael Gillen

The platform will also give farmers the opportunity to make better use of assets that are only used for a fraction of the year.

Claiming to be offering the Airbnb of agricultural machinery, the new farmer-to-farmer machinery rental platform, Farm-r, has been set up to operate across the length and breadth of the country by Northumberland-based farmer’s son Dan Robinson.

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Robinson said that, having worked in the farm supply industry, it was plain that by sharing machinery farm businesses could create efficiencies, making agriculture more environmentally and financially sustainable.

While this concept had been taken up by the machinery rings, Robinson said that these generally operated on a regional basis – but moving to a national approach that took advantage of seasonal differences could offer additional benefits, with the season for forage and harvest equipment often differing by weeks or months across the country.

He said the new system offered farmers the ability to connect and share machinery and transact securely at the click of a button on a phone, tablet or computer.

The notion of Farm-r had originally been floated on Twitter – and Robinson said that the enthusiasm from the tech-savvy portion of the industry had shown that here was demand from right across the UK.

“Farmers can list machinery for rent on its own; they can list it with an operator, providing them with a day’s work and adding a useful service, or contractors can list full contracting services,” he said.

Robinson said that Farm-r was particularly relevant during the uncertain times of Brexit – as it allowed farmers to sweat the assets they already owned or, alternatively, to own less machinery.

He added that it also offered an opportunity to try new ways of farming using equipment they could not purchase and to let new crops, techniques and concept to be tried without incurring a huge capital commitment.

Sensor could save calves

Mortality rate of calves and cows during calving could be significantly reduced according to a company that has developed a calving sensor which alerts farmers to the imminent event via mobile phone.

The palm-sized sensor, attached to the cow’s tail-head, predicts the onset of calving by measuring specific movements linked to labour contractions.

The device – developed and marketed by Irish company Moocall – sends an alert, via Vodafone’s Internet of Things network, directly to a farmer’s mobile phone and is designed to give about an hour’s notice before calving.

John Larkin, Moocall’s technology and marketing manager, said that around 150,000 calves in the UK and Ireland had been born safely using the firm’s tail-mounted sensor. Cost is currently €329 (£285) for the sensor, the first year’s usage and software upgrades, with subsequent years coming in at €150 per year, with discounts available for additional units.

Larkin said that the system also helped farmers increase productivity of their herds and save money – not only on labour costs but also in animal losses, with the average replacement value of a cow between £1,000 and £2,000, although pedigree stock could be much higher.

“As well as helping to ensure the safe delivery of the calf and the wellbeing of the cow, the system also allows farmers to get some much-needed rest,” he concluded.