16 March 2001

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New electronic technology can certainly help fine-tune

arable businesses. But growers have firm ideas about how

far that assistance can go, as became clear at the recent

FW barometer farmers conference. Andrew Blake reports

BIG changes in the way information reaches farms are sweeping the industry, with manufacturers, distributors, advisers and farmers all affected, says Angus Robinson, sales manager of sponsor BASF.

"It is happening faster than most people expected. But there is always a risk in believing that new technology is automatically better than what went before.

"Information is a powerful tool, but it must be of good quality and accurate." Information overload is a constant concern, Mr Robinson acknowledges.

"There is a lot of information out there. We need to know what farmers priorities are and what they really want."

Mr Robinson also revealed that 97% of the 35 conference delegates on the firms database already own a computer. But only 40%, use it for e-mail and only 40% have a fax.

Nearly one-third have visited the companys interactive web-site (www.agricentre.co.uk) which provides a wide range of information, agronomy tools, four-day weather forecasts updated twice daily, and links to other sites.

Tailored info goal

The main message from a seminar discussion is that most growers welcome on-line information, says BASFs Rachel Horton. "But it needs to be concise, relevant and tailored as far as possible to individuals."

In that respect there is general acceptance that the company needs to keep details of individual growers businesses on a database provided the information remains secure and is not sold on, she says. "Its clear that no-one wants junk e-mail."

"Security is especially important to us," adds BASF sales manager Angus Robinson. "We have spent a large amount creating a very secure site. The last thing we want is our database corrupted."

E-TECHNOLOGY VIEWS

&#8226 Most keen to embrace internet.

&#8226 Wariness over junk e-mails.

&#8226 Few anticipate on-line buying.

&#8226 Personal info must not be sold.

Sponsors message

Helping farmers succeed has always been the goal for BASF. With arable farmers under intense financial pressure the need to work together towards a profitable future has never been greater. That is why BASF is pleased to be associated with the farmers weekly Barometer Farmer Conference "Managing Towards 2010".