25 February 2000

Computer aid on farm now

A NEW £1m+ computerised system to support field recommendations is setting new standards for on-farm advice, claims a leading distributor.

Agrarian from Profarma aims to help agronomists develop the most up-to-date advice to meet legislation and crop assurance requirements as well as exploit the latest technical developments.

"We are trashing the traditional recommendation sheet and replacing it with an electronic system which provides all the details defining the site, the most up-to-date technical information available and automatic checks to ensure advice meets all the legal and assurance requirements farmers have to think about today," says system manager, Peter Ingram.

"The penalties and costs of getting it wrong are getting very high, both for the grower and for us," says commercial director, James Robertson. "We cannot afford to get it wrong. This system will significantly reduce the margin for error."

Technical updates and access to results from the companys 15,000 Select Agronomy trial plots mean the system has the strongest technical base in the industry, says Mr Robertson. "This is our competitive edge which we believe puts us well ahead of the rest of the industry."

Data is exchanged between head-office and laptop computers daily, providing a back-up in case of a system failure and keeping technical information and product approvals up to date, notes Mr Ingram. "Compared with weekly updates it is a big leap forward."

Skeleton recommendations can be held on the system and refined to suit individual fields, with a budgeting facility recording actual prices agreed on the day.

Many aspects are geared to meet the needs of assurance schemes to have information recorded and in the right format. "We are helping farmers provide that information."

Historic field data can be already be called up within the system and precision farming information will be integrated later this season. Later this year clients will also be able to access their own computer records using a password, so details can be incorporated into on-farm field recording systems.

Mr Robertson strongly refutes suggestions that the system merely helps agronomists select higher margin products. "Our reputation is more important than that. The whole thing is geared to highly skilled agronomists making the right decision for that field on that day. They have complete freedom to act as they see fit."

But the service will only be available to full-service clients. "This is not part of an exercise in separating agronomy and product sales. We believe the two are inextricably linked. Our service is based on our technical position, which we think is the best in the country, backed by the biggest programme of trials in the country which are not for sale and not contract driven. 99.9% of our clients are full-service and we expect it to stay that way."

The system is unique to Profarma, written by in-house experts. "We have no plans to market it, but it is likely to be adopted by sister companies in France and Holland later this year," he says. &#42

PROFARMA AGRARIAN

&#8226 Computer-assisted field recommendations.

&#8226 Daily technical updates.

&#8226 All 100 agronomists.

&#8226 £1m+ development.

&#8226 Meets assurance criteria.

Replacing the agronomists boot-load of technical manuals and reports, Agrarian provides up-to-date technical information and on-screen checks to ensure advice is the best available, say (l-r) Stephen Grange, James Robertson and Peter Ingram of Profarma.