To spend or not to spend, choosing the right time to invest as a farmer is never easy. At the mercy of a world marketplace where trade decisions made by countries on the other side of the globe can cause prices to crash; with investment comes risk.
Nonetheless, many of the innovative new technologies that have the potential to revolutionise farming and help forge more productive futures were on display at York Auction Centre today for the Yorkshire Agricultural Machinery Show. The event, held for the second time in as many years, saw thousands of curious farmers pass through the gates to scout out what the future may hold.
Speaking from the show, Richard Pearson, regional director of the National Farmers’ Union, told The Yorkshire Post of how technological advances made modern farming unrecognisable from what it was 20 years ago.
“What we are seeing is satellite technology that is helping reduce the inputs of production, and we are seeing drones used on farmers where they are flown across the field isolating parts where less fertiliser and chemicals are needed.
“We are becoming much more efficient and a sign of the times is that we are competing in world markets and we have to use the latest technology to compete.”
The only problem is that too few farmers have the means to embrace more efficient machinery, Mr Pearson said.
“The volatile markets at the moment make it very hard for farmers to make long term decisions on their business, so what we are seeing is farmers holding back on making these decisions until they have a bit more security about what’s happening in the long term.”
Event organiser and local livestock auctioneer, Richard Tasker, brought together 160 agricultural machinery dealers from across the region at the show in Murton. One exhibitor, Nigel Wilson, the northern area sales manager for Zetor tractors, said he too had noticed caution towards investment, with poor commodity prices holding many farmers back from spending money on the technology of the future.
“People are looking at changing their line of thought into the investment in machinery - looking to make their frontline tractors last longer and looking to back it up with something that’s more of your standard tractor rather than your more specialist machinery,” he said. “It’s a question of economics.”
Some in the industry believe future generations of increasingly tech-savvy farmers will lead to a surge in the uptake of innovative new machinery.
Former Bishop Burton College student Matthew Hiles, 18, farms seed potatoes with his father, Mike, near Market Weighton, and works for agricultural equipment suppliers, Manterra Ltd, in Sancton. He uses GPS guided tractors to spray fertilisers on crops and is well aware of the importance of such technological advances.
“It makes farming even more attractive to step into. It’s going to make it a lot easier. The technology I use compared to what my father used when he started is very different.”
Manterra director Andrew Manfield added: “There is still an awful lot of scope for adoption of precision equipment. I think the next generation of farmers will be really running with this technology.
“It’s second nature for a lot of young people to use this type of equipment.”