14 April 2000

Internet services will revolutionise running of farms

The latest article in our

Michelin-sponsored series

considers the huge

potential for farmers to

exploit the internet.

Charles Abel reports

PICTURE this – your palm-top computer bleeps to say 200t of grain has just been sold at your target price. The buyer is satisfied with your production records, the lorry will arrive in 20 minutes and the money will transfer automatically once it is loaded.

Meanwhile, your agronomist has transmitted new spray recommendations direct to your sprayers smart card. His choices are backed by a decision support system that uses todays crop data, accurate weather forecasting and an hourly updated database of input prices, approvals and international trials results.

Your registration signalling an interest to buy a second-hand 150hp 4WD John Deere tractor has also attracted quotes from Suffolk, Aberdeen and the Czech Republic. Quick reference to a logistics package shows the Czech machine can be acquired at least cost. You ask for a download of its specification and working history.

That could be the typical start to the day for farmers across the land in a matter of years, says Julian Westaway, Reed Farmers Publishing Groups electronic media publisher at FWi.

"Ive no shadow of a doubt the internet will become an integral part of business life. How fast it happens is hard to say. Historically it would take 10-15 years for new technology to become commonplace, but it could be next year the way things are developing."

Systems will be portable, moving from office PCs to palm-top computers and multi-functional mobile phones. Services will be tailored to meet individual needs, providing just the information a business needs.

Too good to be true? Not at all, insists Mr Westaway. "At the moment internet services provide a lot of information. In future they will integrate that information into the whole way a farm does its business."

Data will be keyed-in and automatically used to support a host of specialist services. "When grain is marketed full production details will be made available for potential buyers to see, for example."

Similarly, specific on-farm production and storage costs will be integrated, so bids can be accepted or rejected according to an automatically updated farm budget.

Internet trading will be commonplace, more transparent pricing allowing alternative input and equipment sourcing. But service will remain important. "Products will still need delivering and supporting," says Mr Westaway.

Security will be no more of an issue than for conventional business. "Millions of £s of trade is being done over the internet already. It is in the interests of those investing in the technology to ensure the system is as secure as it can be."

But what about cost? "Integrat-ing the internet into business is all about bringing with it increased efficiencies. If it saves three hours paperwork and the cost is equivalent to one hour of office time, business sense would encourage embracing this new technology." &#42

&#8226 More arable on page 67

INTERNETEXPLOSION

&#8226 Business support services.

&#8226 Hand-held portability.

&#8226 Full integration of info.

&#8226 Secure as normal trade.

&#8226 Frees management time.