Nothing to be feared from advances in farm technology
This article was first published in the Western Morning News on 22 November 2017 and is reproduced by kind permission.
Technology is advancing at a terrifying pace and it is hard to see what areas of our lives will not be influenced by it in the very near future – driverless cars, delivery drones, computers that can turn off the lights in your house and tell you what to do next and even the world of dating is not what it used to be!
Farming is seen by many as a steady, traditional industry, but even in agriculture technology is developing rapidly. Some may see the advance of technology as something to fear, something which will leave workers out of work or detract from its natural roots, but others think of it as an exciting new world, where the opportunities are boundless and technology can raise standards and increase efficiencies.
One such thinker is Roger Prior of Masons Kings and so I went to meet him at his Chudleigh depot for a chat.
Roger left the city in 2005 and seized the opportunity to acquire James Mason Limited, agricultural engineers with the assistance of Richard Cobb, one of my partners at Michelmores.
Since then, the annual turnover of Masons Kings, with its three depots across the South west, has grown from £6m to £26m today.
Masons Kings is committed to agriculture, selling high end machinery, parts and equipment and providing bespoke support and service to its customers 365 days a year.
Roger is evidently proud of Masons Kings and was keen to tell me how far his staff would go to ensure that customers were back up and running as quickly as possible in the event of mechanical failure. He recounted the tale of when a tractor replacement gearbox had to be transported over from Germany in the back of a caravan so that it could be delivered to the customer and installed as quickly as possible to ensure that the customer was back up and running.
Roger explained some of the exciting on-farm services that his company can help deliver though their FarmSight service. This includes yield maps produced by combines, which can inform the farmer where to apply fertilisers and sprays to best effect and the use of GPS driven tractors, ensuring that tractors can be positioned to 2mm accuracy.
He also talked about how machines on farms across the region are linked up to his service depots via JD Link so that they can monitor their performance using real time machine and filed data, often delivering support before the farmer even knows that there is a problem.
These systems and advances in technology provide the farming industry with modern solutions to age old problems, driving efficiencies and reducing waste.
In a world where we need to produce more food in a more environmentally sensitive way whilst keeping the cost to the consumer down and when the future of agricultural subsidies is uncertain, efficiency is the only way to keep businesses afloat and therefore technology is going to be ever more important in achieving those efficiencies and maximising farm profits.
And it is businesses like Masons Kings that can help to support the industry through these uncertain times by introducing and optimising technology.
However, it struck me that success not only lies with the technology but also with good old fashioned customer service; something which endures the passing of time and which we can all appreciate.
Roger's team is expert at delivering cutting edge support to their customers, whilst equally adept at creating a solution to a problem by taking an old piece of metal and fashioning it into something that works.
Agriculture may be facing many uncertainties and challenges in this pre-Brexit era, but it is a fantastic and diverse industry with deep routed traditions and culture but which is also at the cutting edge of technology. For those who are brave and open to challenge and change, it offers a bright and exciting future.