Technology and farming
A BUSINESS in the shire is at the forefront of new farm technologies.
Phil Whitten’s ‘Farming Management Solutions’ (FMS) on Railway Street represents not only a business that is looking to capitalise on new technologies and web-based applications that are revolutionising the farming industry, but also the new opportunities the internet age to decentralise the business community.
Away from Melbourne’s CBD, companies like Phil’s are able to set up and thrive, because the need to be physically close to everything else is being rapidly eroded in the internet age.
It is this principle that forms the basis of what FMS does.
To look through the front window and into the fairly empty room with a few solar-powered gadgets against the glass offers few clues as to what FMS actually does.
There’s not much in the way of ‘normal office stuff’.
That’s because Phil operates a business that can be largely run on the screen of his smartphone.
From that screen Phil can monitor the nearly 50 properties that include cattle stations in the Northern Territory, cotton growers in western NSW, and properties on the York Peninsula, SA - as well as farms in the Goulburn Valley- that use his equipment.
You see FMS deals in agricultural telemetry.
In simpler terms, this means the provision of farm monitoring equipment that gathers information regarding a property and sends it to the ‘cloud’ (online database) where it can be viewed, and actions taken accordingly, from home.
The data and control that can be accessed via the web-based system is immense.
The monitoring equipment FMS provides can tell landowners how much water is in their tanks, troughs or dams; provide information regarding soil moisture; automatically control irrigation and watering; and enable absentee farmers to see what is going on through video and photographic recording.
It also logs data that can be used to make future predictions as to the behaviour of crops under certain conditions, and enable producers to adopt more precise farming practices based on the information available.
Phil set up the business in Euroa in April 2015, and said the ability to monitor the goings on of the farm from off-site opens up a new world of possibilities for producers.
“The system makes farming more attractive to those put off by the labour-intensive and completely full time nature of the job,” Phil said.
“Having the monitoring systems installed means that people no longer have to live on their properties 24/7.
“Instead they can manage multiple properties, or one nowhere near their place of residence, because the system takes so many of the mundane and time-consuming tasks out of farming.”
Perhaps, they can even take a day off every now and then- something many are currently unable to do.
“Most importantly”, Phil said. “This highly sophisticated equipment turns old style farming into precision agriculture, which saves money, time and is good for the environment.”
“I have a system installed at Plunkett’s Winery for example. By having that information sent through to them that tells operators what the soil moisture levels are, a detailed analysis of the weather conditions the crop is exposed to, they are able to control just how much water they need, or soil additives to use, to manufacture a good vintage.
“By no longer just going off a predetermined watering schedule, and taking some of the ‘guess work’ out of managing their crop, they are getting better yields, reducing runoff of chemicals into waterways, and saving themselves time and money by setting up an automatic system.”
Phil believes that the systems are advantageous to those looking to sell their property, or are in the market to buy.
“You’re no longer looking at a very small buyers’ market, because you no longer have to appeal only to those who live locally, or look at local properties to invest in, because you no longer have to live where you work.”
FMS is a business that continues to grow.
“We recently won the tender to a property in Queensland called Spyglass Beef Research Station, a research and development farm that concentrates on demonstrating bestpractice to other farms,” he said.
“The farm is over 200 square kilometres, which isn’t massive, but they can have all their 25 water points monitored from the station. So instead of having to head out every couple of days to check water levels they can do it from home.
“We also have people who spend much of their working life overseas, who can still manage much of the day-to-day operations of their farms from out of country.”
This is an exciting new field for young kids coming through to get into, with agricultural technology identified as one of the booming industries in the next decade.
“The great thing about this kind of stuff is that I can live here in Euroa,” he said.
“You don’t have to move away to be involved in this anymore. As long as you have a good relationship with suppliers and subcontractors you can run web-based programs from your computer anywhere”
“I love being able to live and work here in Euroa. Why wouldn’t you? It’s a great town, close to my farm in Ruffy, and besides, the rent’s much cheaper here than on Spring Street.”
LEADING THE WAY: Phil Whitten’s ‘Farming Management Solutions’ in Railway Street, Euroa, is at the forefront of new farming technologies looking to change the way we view agriculture.