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Forward-thinking family farm has embraced Big Data

PUBLISHED: 10:00 12 June 2020 | UPDATED: 10:18 12 June 2020

Wisbech farmers Andrew Melton (right) and his son Sam are East Anglia's newest additions to the AHDB Monitor Farm network. Picture: Lisa Melton

Wisbech farmers Andrew Melton (right) and his son Sam are East Anglia's newest additions to the AHDB Monitor Farm network. Picture: Lisa Melton

Lisa Melton

A progressive family-run farm which is harnessing technology to oversee its network of contract farming arrangements has become East Anglia’s latest member of a national knowledge-sharing network.

Wisbech farmers Andrew Melton (right) and his son Sam are East Anglia's newest additions to the AHDB Monitor Farm network. Picture: Lisa Melton Wisbech farmers Andrew Melton (right) and his son Sam are East Anglia's newest additions to the AHDB Monitor Farm network. Picture: Lisa Melton

Andrew Melton and his son Sam run a sprawling contract farming operation, stretching 15 miles around their home farm near Wisbech.

They use data-capturing software to analyse their cost of production and find ways to cut costs without affecting profitability.

Now fellow growers will be able to scrutinise the strengths and weaknesses of the farm’s management approach as the business joins the Monitor Farm programme run by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) – a nationwide network of farmers dedicated to improving performance by sharing best practice and opening themselves up to peer review.

Andrew said: “We oversee a complex operation and in the past it’s been hard to bring together data from different sources. Previously everything was centralised and run through the main farm business.

“Taking advantage of the age of Big Data, we now use lots of different technology on farm to capture information. This allows us to analyse the constituent parts of our business and find out our true costs.”

The Meltons’ farm comprises 1,400 hectares of arable cropping including wheat, barley, oilseed rape and sugar beet. The contracting side of the business has grown into a comprehensive “stubble to stubble” service, offering everything from cultivation through to harvest.

“The way we’ve grown our business is something I’m really proud of,” said Andrew. “We started with just an autumn spraying service. We have taken this forward to diversify into other business opportunities, such as a soil sampling service for potato growers.”

As Monitor Farm hosts, Andrew and Sam will jointly host regular meetings with local farmers to discuss challenges include increasing soil health and profitability, preparing for the withdrawal of EU subsidy payments, and becoming less reliant on chemicals.

Teresa Meadows, AHDB’s knowledge exchange manager for the East Anglia region, said: “Andrew and Sam run a forward-thinking and progressive family business, already embracing new technologies and preparing for the changes in farming policy in months and years ahead. Farmers participating in these meetings, in this new area for a Monitor Farm, will have much to discuss, learn and share, to progress with business and personal development.”

The Wisbech Monitor Farm becomes the latest East Anglian addition to the network, which also includes Richard Ling, host of the Diss Monitor Farm.

• For more information see the AHDB website.


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