Why Open Data is the key to innovation in farming

Why Open Data is the key to innovation in farming


The UK has rich history of farming. Millions of acres of land and hundreds of thousands of people work every day to produce crops, meat and dairy, just as it has been for hundreds of years.

However, farming in the UK is now in crisis. The number of farms are declining, we are importing more of the food we need, and those who do continue to farm are facing financial hardship.

A farming revolution is needed. New innovations and technology must be used to allow farmers and producers to increase their profitability, simplify communication and record keeping, and make their farm easier to manage, allowing them to spend less time filling in paperwork, and more time out in their fields.

Last June, MP Liz Truss set out a vision to share thousands of datasets held by Defra, in a move coined as #OpenDefra. Defra is the most data rich department in Whitehall, meaning that the release of these data sets really has the potential to change all aspects of agriculture.

Even before the open data movement, we’ve been able to see the impact that innovation and technology can have on farming. Autonomous tractors, drones that can give a real-time view of crop health, spraying equipment that can target just weeds within a field of crops – all of these tools mean that farmers are increasing yield and profitability whilst decreasing the manpower and time they need to spend working.

Open data is the key to ensuring that this world-class innovation continues, and has a meaningful impact on British agriculture. All farmers should have as much information as possible about their farms at their disposal – from the nutrient composition of their soils determined by drones, to satellite imagery of their land, and historical crop and yield data to allow the most informed decisions for the future. To build these tools, innovators and tech companies need to be able to access and visualise the data that Defra holds in simple and elegant ways to ensure that farmers are able to use and understand the information effectively.

Here at fieldmargin, we truly believe that the tools we’re producing will revolutionise and simplify the way farms are managed. We’re a company born of necessity – founder (and farmer) Mark became so frustrated with being unable to access vital information whilst out in the field that he decided to make software that would allow a farm to be managed anywhere – software that has developed into the tools we produce today.

We want farmers to have all the data they could ever need at their fingertips, and to be able to share and discuss this with internal and external stakeholders at the touch of a button. Imagine being able to check what tasks your farm workers are carrying out, send pictures of your crops to your agronomist, share information with your spray contractors, check tomorrows weather forecast and talk to neighbouring farmers about what is growing best for them, all in one place.

That’s what we want fieldmargin to be able to grow and develop into. Our current app allows farmers, agronomists, and other farm workers to create detailed notes and pin-points of current tasks or issues on the farm and geotag exactly where it is – even when out of phone signal range or when out in the field.

The first step we need to take to make a truly integrated tool is to allow our users to automatically add their field boundaries and land areas. With many farms in the UK being tens of thousands of acres, manually defining exactly where fields are can be frustrating and time consuming. The Rural Land Register (RLR) holds details of all farms, including field boundaries, which our team could integrate into the tools we build, to make sure that all farmers can easily set up and use fieldmargin to streamline and simplify communication on their farm. This is just one example of how we’re hoping to make use of the of #OpenDefra scheme, and how it can impact upon British agriculture.

As Liz Truss said, open data will ‘transform the world of food and farming … [and] will help food and farming achieve its full potential’. We believe that fieldmargin has the potential to be at the forefront of this transformation, and that we will be able to make a huge, positive impact within farming and agriculture in Britain.





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