On-Farm Crop Management Project Starts – Tillage Magazine 

A unique research initiative is taking place on a Northamptonshire farm. Focusing on key areas of innovation and technology the Helix project will act as a central research hub.

The project will focus on all aspects of crop management from sensors and prediction software, soil management and analysis, through to field data and input measurement.

It will also encompass environmental aspects such as surveillance and predictive systems, nutrition, input and new trait technologies, which will also be assessed and developed within the Helix project.

Helix is a collaborative project working with a number of established companies to integrate different technologies and systems, allowing the grower to fully benefit from innovation and decision support.


The project’s aim is to look at how technologies can be successfully linked with knowledge to deliver a greater level of advice by agronomists to farm businesses.

Stuart Hill, Head of Technology and Innovation at Hutchinsons explained that the Helix project will be based around full scale working farms where impact can be measured not only on yields, but also on productivity, efficiency and the farm environment.

“We are being exposed to a plethora of technologies such as data analytics, climate, machine learning, sensors, monitoring, detection systems, autonomy and robotics. However, there is a need to evaluate which technologies are relevant and ultimately increase  productivity and profitability, as well as efficiency, both for the grower and the agronomist.”

Growers and agronomists want simplicity, so linking of technologies and knowledge will lead to decision making through a one-hub system approach, Omnia.


The National Helix Technology Development Farm is being hosted courtesy of Andrew and William Pitts of JW Pitts&Sons located in Northamptonshire.

“I’m very pleased to be working alongside such a forward-thinking business as Hutchinsons. We are running over 1700 acres here and our aim is to be productive, efficient and ultimately profitable, otherwise we have no farm.

“The relationship with the agronomist in future will adapt to this and will, with the use of technologies, become more strategic and inclusive of whole farm advice,” says Andrew Pitts.

“The technology revolution is here and we need to ensure these are relevant, applicable and straightforward to use for all our benefit. I see a future when we will spend much less time field walking with the technologies available and more time on strategic discussion about the farm and sustainability.

“Helix, to us, brings together management support and technical services all into one bundle, tying it all together, making life simple, this gives us the opportunity to do it all in one go, but it’s got to add value to my business.”


Hutchinsons research has shown that farmers expect the agronomist of the future to have a whole farm management approach to agronomic advice, encompassing IPM, soils, cultivations/mechanisation, environment, traits, nutrition and crop protection based on an understanding of the individual business and costing’s.

Agronomists knowledge and data interpretation will be as important an aspect of their service as field walking, they need to be ahead of the curve in terms of skills and technology developments, with a strong focus on overall farm business management.

Hutchinsons agronomists James MacWilliam and Michael Shemilt are also involved in the project. Michael is testing and managing technologies with the farm to understand how they will work and their value in the farm scale situation.

Areas such as climate and pest prediction, nutrition technology, variety trait work and environmental sustainability are already being studied on farm.

“We aim to demonstrate these technologies by various means and not just the traditional farm open days. After all, this is about use and benefit of technologies, so technology will be used to demonstrate it,” says Mr Hill.



Predicting and monitoring risk analysis with regards to disease pests, crop growth and lodging risk. This will help growers to identify and understand where there is risk and to help justify farm decisions.


This encapsulates a sustainable farm business. This project looks at the sustainable use of inputs and a sustainable farm environment. Hutchinsons are developing technology to enable mapping of pollination species in appropriate locations and timings on farm.


Soil and tissue testing are challenging and time consuming processes. The nutrition project aims to simplify decision making by enabling live analysis alongside developing knowledge.