Linking Technology and Advice for Sustainable Farming

Projects addressing challenges around sustainability, output optimisation, crop nutrition and decision support were showcased at the first Helix technology experience in early June.

The projects form part of Hutchinsons‘ over-arching Helix research hub, based on-farm at J.W. Pitts & Sons’ Moat Farm, Whiston, Northamptonshire.

Helix has been designed to bring together aspects of crop management from sensors and prediction software, soil management and analysis, through to field data and input measurement, with the aim of linking technologies with knowledge to enable agronomists to deliver a greater level of advice, says Hutchinsons.

Environmental sustainability

This project is looking at the potential for use of aerial imagery produced using aircraft-based platforms – cheaper than using drones but producing higher resolution images than satellites – to map habitat features on-farm.

Hutchinsons services leader Matt Ward explains that mapping in this way can be used to identify where there are low yielding crop areas that also have few habitat features.

“We can then marry the two up and that is important because we might be going into an era of payment by results and clearly if you start with nothing, anything that you do is going to be an improvement,” he says.


Sub project 1: To create live and seamless soil analysis and bespoke assessment and advice via a central system

Sub project 2: Non-invasive remote tissue analysis for seamless decisions on plant health

Sub project 3: Momentum trials: Ensuring all parameters of crop growth are optimised: minimising variables, identifying and reacting to crop stress, calibrating records, measures and predictions

Maximising output

A project designed to investigate how technology can be used to identify and quantify variability and understand how crop management decisions impact on individual components of yield. Some of the questions being examined within the project are:

  • Use of variable seed rates linked to soil type
  • Use of technology to find crop establishment percentage
  • Use of crop imaging to capture biomass accumulation and ear density information in a way that can be used to improve crop management

In a sub project entitled ‘Field yield and cost per tonne evaluation’, yield mapping and cost of production data available through Hutchinsons’ Omnia precision farming platform are being used to model field profit potential and determine the impact of profit on less productive areas.

Helix farm host Andrew Pitts plans to conduct this analysis across the whole of the farm’s cropping programme, to calculate the maximum gross margin potential for the farm.

Prediction and justification

The project aims to take on new technologies, look at how they can be used on-farm to improve efficiency and help justify the way crop protection chemistry is used.

Project components include: pest and disease risk analysis, crop modelling, higher resolution targeting of crop pests and diseases, remote monitoring and logistics planning.