Fermanagh agricultural students are now in the forefront of the latest technology in precision farming as it is now being used in everyday activities on certain commercial farms.
Students at Harper Adams University are seeing the precision farming techniques used on the adjoining commercial farm following a deal with a local tractor agency.
Out in the university farm's fields in Shropshire, state-of-the-art precision farming equipment is being used that would make the average satnav look rather primitive. And among those using the system is Kyle Wilson from Lisnaskea, who is an agricultural engineering student.
Three sets of GPS guidance and documentation mapping equipment have been fitted to the farm's tractors thanks to a long-standing business relationship between the university and Rea Valley Tractors, which specializes in John Deere, a world leader in the field of precision farming.
GPS in precision farming is being used for farm planning, field mapping, soil sampling, tractor guidance, crop scouting, variable rate applications, and yield mapping. It also allows farmers to work in low visibility such as rain, fog/mist and darkness.
Not only is the equipment benefiting the university's farm but also the farmers and agricultural engineers of the future. This work will culminate in the opening at Harper Adams University of the new £2.93 million National Centre for Precision Farming in the autumn, to educate students about precision farming and help them get hands-on experience.
Among the students to see the precision farming in action is Kyle Wilson from Lisnaskea, who is on his second year studying agricultural engineering at the university. He says his course is already looking at GPS systems as well as controlled traffic and auto-steering kits. There is also a lot of emphasis on learning about efficiencies.
The university's newly installed precision farming system also has the potential to be used to provide demonstrations and training in the use of the technology.
Chris Jacques, from Rea Valley Tractors, said, "With the recent upsurge in GPS technology and precision farming practices, the farm had been making some very serious inquiries regarding the purchase of precision farming equipment for the university's commercial farm," he added.
"Subsequently a deal was struck to supply three sets of GPS guidance and documentation mapping equipment for the university farm tractors. We have been working with the university to help provide precision farming education for the relevant student groups. This has provided a valuable insight into the world of precision farming for the students and is hopefully starting to form some base for what the National Centre for Precision Farming will aim to provide in the future.