Sensors can play big role on farm

The widespread use of sensors could provide a boost to farming efficiency in Scotland and help cut the industry’s carbon footprint and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

That was one of the messages to come out of yesterdays’ Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society's (SAOS) on-line conference when the organisation’s George Noble outlined three areas where such readily available and reasonably priced gadgets could provide practical information which would help improve performance in both areas.

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Reducing food waste was a key factor in improving efficiency and simple sensors could provide feedback on many parameters in stored grain and potato sheds, allowing any problems to be identified at an early stage – and giving the farmer time to take remedial action. He added that data from the constant monitoring could also be used to verify adherence to assurance scheme standards.

With pneumonia accounting for more than 25% of all calf disposals, Noble said that sensors which monitored temperature and humidity in the areas close to the calves could provide early warning on a digital dashboard when action was required – either in the form of switching on fan ventilation, changing management practices or making fundamental changes to building design.

Nitrogen use efficiency was another which could be addressed by simple sensors. Noble said that currently almost 50 per cent of nitrogen applied to crops was lost through emissions or leaching – but providing the farmer with soil temperature and moisture data through the use of sensors, together with weather data, could allow much improved timing of applications and huge cost savings.