September 2017 sees the 20th anniversary for Farm Image, part of Kent-based Austin Contract Services Group who, over the past two decades, have provided agricultural services including soil sampling and lime spreading for farmers across the South East.

Since 1997, Farm Image has grown from solely offering soil pH analysis to today providing the most accurate techniques for obtaining a whole portfolio of useful soil data as well as offering a unique solution for each client.

Introducing SoilSmart

The ethos of the Farm Image team is that profitability in farming relies heavily on making the most of your every hectare which in turn, is dependent on truly knowing your soil.

SoilSmart is the division of Farm Image that offers a range of sampling and analysis packages tailored to suit you and your business with no hidden costs or contracts. In doing so, Farm Image pride themselves in being a team that can provide an honest and personal service tailored to every one of their customers.

While still offering the standard soil sampling techniques to give results for pH, P, K and Mg, Farm Image have expanded their SoilSmart range to include Precision Sampling and Smart Scanning.

As opposed to simply taking samples in a ‘W’ pattern across a field, Precision Sampling uses GPS technology to systematically sample a field, taking 16 cores from every hectare or a specific number of samples per hectare at the request of the farmer. As a result, this technique provides a far more accurate insight into unique field environments and allows for the formation of Farm Image Precision Maps clearly showing field zones for each field property – pH, P, K and Mg.

However, in 2017, Farm Image began researching further into the ways in which soil can be analysed and how that may be translated into precision farming techniques such as variable rate seeding and fertiliser application. As a result, September’s anniversary celebration sees the launch of SoilSmart’s Smart Scanner service using the latest in-field scanning equipment.

Farm Image, has invested in technology to offer soil data analysis at an unbeatable rate of samples per hectare as well as adding analysis of organic matter, soil texture (electrical conductivity) and topography to their precision packages.

Amy Bradley, marketing manager at Farm Image, said that: “The Farm Image Smart Scanner is able to take 200 readings per hectare and form on-the-go field maps via an on-board tablet, to the highest accuracy for pH, organic matter, soil texture and topography, all of which drastically affect water holding capacity and nutrient availability for crops.”

“We were the first British company to import a U3 soil scanner directly from Veris Technologies,” said Amy. “It came straight off the plane at Heathrow and went to the 2017 Cereals show in Lincolnshire where it turned a lot of heads. Since then, we have been busy taking the service from farm to farm across the UK showing farmers the potential of farming precisely for profitability.”

The team at Farm Image are keen to make it clear to their customers that the biggest benefit of the Smart Scanner service is how it translates into huge money savings by allowing farmers to be more targeted with drilling as well as product application. The advantage of the Smart Scanner mapping compared to grid sampling is that soil is not laid out in neat squares, there is variability within most 1Ha grids, and modern farming equipment has the ability to change rates multiple times within each 1ha grid, and meet the soil’s needs more accurately.

SoilSmart Service maps: soil texture, organic matter, topography and pH

“The technology comes into its own through the generation of combining the data collected in field, to produce a more meaningful single map. This technique allows SoilSmart to provide precision maps by fusing the soil type, OM and topography into zones for nutrient sampling, variable rate seeding, variable rate Nitrogen, irrigation and much more,” explained Amy.

“It will mean that growers who have invested hundreds of thousands of pounds into high-tech variable rate machinery are making the most of their kit,” Amy continued. “If you are not sampling on an intensive scale and looking at soil property zones, you are not tapping into the full potential modern planting and fertilising equipment is capable of.”

Other specific SoilSmart services include Cyst Nematode Analysis (PCN) for potato and pea growers. Farm Image are able to analyse samples to give an idea of the number of nematodes, type of species and a zone map to show any hotspots within the field. Meanwhile another popular service is deep core nitrogen sampling, which provides farmers with precise data for the exact nitrogen reserves within their soil for the deeper arrays.

Farmers are encouraged to contact Louise White, agricultural manager for Farm Image to discuss what sampling package may best benefit them and their business.

Innovative soil sampling

It was important for Farm Image, having introduced innovative soil sampling methods and accurate data analysis, to then be able to offer the end products to their customers to rectify any discovered soil issues. Therefore, September sees the launch of Farm Image’s SoilSolutions, a catalogue of a wide range of agricultural products each targeting a specific soil deficiency or yield effecting weed.

Farm Image have a particularly impressive range of liming products to offer an effective resolution to low pH soils. While quarried limestone remains popular, farmers are also opting for Limex, a high quality liming material produced from the processing of sugar beet, as well as Calcifert, a prilled lime that Farm Image now offer with an optional addition of Magnesium and Sulphur. When it comes to a reliable and efficient liming service, Farm Image are able to provide every farmer in the South East with a personal lime sales contact who can arrange pH testing, return a lime recommendation and arrange spreading within a short and crucial time frame. With their latest addition to the fleet, the very first variable rate Bredal orchard lime spreader in the UK, Farm Image are now extending this service to all fruit farmers too.

Nutritional products on offer include the highly popular Diamond Fertiliser, from screenings to straights or a blend of nitrogen, phosphates and potash in a combination that’s right for the crops.

Viscofol Black is the much-anticipated new organic matter product available via Farm Image, offering extract of Humic Acid from ground Leonardite. Humates are one of the most productive inputs available to growers, and they are rich in organic and mineral substances. Humates chemically bond with nutrients in the soil for increased absorption by the plant, leading to better nutrient uptake and decreased stress on plants through the growing season. Benefits include: better crop establishment, healthier plants, increased stress resistance, better quality, healthier soil, improved fertiliser efficacy and higher yields.

Go-Pro 50 SL, Go Humic and Crop Improver are among other products Farm Image have added to their catalogue this year, each offering benefits in soil structure, physical and chemical properties, and ventilation. They enhance soil microbial life, making a more fertile environment and increase cationic exchange capacity thus enhancing nutrient assimilation by the crop. Go-pro 50 SL is designed to particularly reduce the abiotic stress in plants caused by negative environmental factors: cold, frost, drought, and waterlogged soil effects whereas Crop Improver is used to boost the development in the early stages of spring crops.

Farm Image wanted to offer arable farmers a solution to the ever-recurring problems with grass weeds and so invested in a new precision Avadex applicator. Avadex is the essential component of any grass-weed management strategy, providing a useful effect on broadleaved weeds including a wide spectrum of activity against black grass, wild oats, rye grass and annual meadow grass. “It is vital to apply Avadex at the right time using well calibrated machinery,” explains Eve Hart, Farm Image sales manager.

From accurate soil analysis to reliable product recommendation, supply and spreading, Farm Image offer an end-to-end service with honesty and efficiency. As agriculture moves into the direction of precision farming, Farm Image are ready to accommodate.

The Farm Image Smart Scanner will be on show with a display of products and services on the Farm Image stand at the Weald of Kent Ploughing Match on 16 September 2017 and at the East Kent Ploughing Match on 27 September 2017.

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