Farmplan using IBM PAIRS to Predict Blackgrass Weed Before it Damages Crops

Participating British Farmers will provide data to train AI to predict where the weed will grow

Farmplan, the leading industry software specialist in the agricultural sector, is working with IBM Research and other partners to collect data from farmers to predict the spread of a damaging weed called Blackgrass.

Blackgrass costs farmers more than £580 billion annually as it can compete with cereal crops such as wheat and barley reducing their yield and resulting in food shortages. As the weed is becoming increasingly resistant to herbicides scientists are turning to artificial intelligence (AI) and data to fight it.

Working with farmers in the UK, a new £1 million project (aiScope) is in progress, with dozens of UK farmers and Farmplan working alongside IBM Research Europe, Sheffield University, Rothamsted Research, Hummingbird Technologies, Precision Decisions and the Science & Technology Facilities Council (STFC) Hartree Centre.

During the 24 month project, data such as soil type, crops and field operations will be collected by farmers and entered into Farmplan’s Gatekeeper software, which enables growers to supply field data without any duplication.

Gatekeeper then passes the data to aiScope which is based on IBM PAIRS, a geospatial-temporal information service. aiScope contains algorithms which combine the farmer’s data with additional data, such as weather, to help scientists create evidence-based blackgrass forecasting models to accurately predict where the weed will grow. Once farmers know where the blackgrass is likely to grow they can eradicate it in advance.

“Blackgrass continues to be a scourge of British farming and we are delighted to provide support to all those working hard to develop best practices to eradicate it” said Alistair Knott, Proagrica’s Precision Agriculture Development Director. “At present, willing, enthusiastic growers across the UK have to supply data manually, when that data is already in their farm management system. They can now seamlessly and securely, expressly permission agreed historic data by field, in a standardised format, efficiently delivered via an API.”

“In order to develop forecast models and decision-support tools for a range of different crop threats, researchers need access to the highest quality data at scale. The aiScope project is working with Proagrica to make it easy for farmers to share their farm management data with researchers, allowing integration with environmental, survey, sensor and imaging data to develop more powerful models than ever before. By applying the latest techniques in data science and artificial intelligence, we hope to address many different challenges, starting with Blackgrass.” said Blair Edwards, Technical Lead for the IBM Research Europe data science team in the UK.

The Gatekeeper-aiScope integration will be available this month. In a few clicks, growers can expressly permission selected crops zones and operations from Farmplan’s Gatekeeper onto the aiScope data platform.

Farmplan is a division of the global Proagrica business, best known for its core integration, workflow and insight solutions. It is providing the data exchange capability to securely deliver the grower data.

For further information on aiScope, please visit the website aiScope- AI data platform for smart crop protection.

This development is the latest step in Proagrica’s ongoing commitment to better data connectivity in the agricultural supply chain. Their expertise in both the sector and data integration allows businesses to focus on creating value for partners and farmers. For further information on Proagrica please visit the website at

About the aiScope data platform

This project brings innovative and disruptive technologies together from IBM Research Europe, Rothamsted Research, The University of Sheffield, Precision Decisions, Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) Hartree Centre and Hummingbird Technologies to transform the crop management market with blackgrass as its first use case.

Harper Adams sway judges with diversification opportunity in Farmplanner competition success

Earlier this year, we had the chance to visit Exton Park in Rutland for the 2020 IAgrM Farmplaner competition, where host Harry Campden followed the theme of previous hosts by opening with an engaging trip around the historic estate. In a change to the usual format, and due to the current restricted social contact measures in place, the competition switched to conference calls for the submission and judging phases.

This year, all 10 teams that entered the IAgrM Farmplanner competition, supported by Farmers Weekly, Duncan and Toplis, and Gasson Associates, were asked to pitch their ideas for the management of the 1286-hectare Exton Estate near Oakham, Rutland. Exton Estate currently comprises a suckler herd, 900ha of arable enterprises and ancient woodland. The teams were challenged to advise the estate owner, Harry Campden, on a range of questions including future staffing arrangements, how to develop redundant buildings, opportunities for diversification in woodland as well as the future cropping and livestock systems.

Tim Brigstocke, chairman of the judges, and the judging panel were presented with four strong diversification proposals, but only one could be crowned the winner of the 2020 Farmplanner of the Year award.

“I thought all four finalists had some excellent and innovative ideas and all thought outside the box,” Harry Campden commented. “All their suggestions for the farming system were well thought out with good justification and they all embraced the need for diversification – Riseholme with their blackcurrants, Newcastle with their equestrian centre, Bishops Burton suggesting a SEN farm and finally Harper Adams proposing a funeral barrow and café.”
The winning team from Harper Adams comprised of Annie Metcalfe, Alex Williams, Frances Thomas, Hannah Proctor, Hugo Dwerryhouse, and Nicholas Hill.

Hannah Proctor added that it gave the team the opportunity to put into practice all they have learnt at university, formulating their own business plans based on a real-life scenario. Despite the challenges they were presented with, the team organised themselves into a group and worked professionally and diligently on the task from start to finish, with the support of Tony Asson, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Land, Farm and Agribusiness Management.

Tony Asson concluded: “The remote working locations for the team members and different presentation format didn’t seem to phase them at all and we are very proud of our 2020 winners.”

Taking the Livestock industry higher

Carcase attributes Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) are now available to help commercial farmers choose a bull based on the attributes that will affect profitability, such as carcase quality and speed of finishing. However, this information can only be generated if the ear tag number of the sire is recorded when registering a calf with BCMS.

With the ambition to take the industry higher, the AHDB has launched a project called Shout about the Sire. It is no secret that certain abattoir schemes will not take meat without the sire being logged, but this is certainly not a norm at the moment.

For animals to be finished on a scheme such as the Aberdeen Angus scheme, which allows suppliers to brand their meat as Aberdeen Angus, the sire must be recorded.

But with only 23 per cent of sires currently registered on passports, AHDB Beef & Lamb is urging farmers to start recording this information to improve profitability and boost their competitiveness.

Carcase trait EBVs are:

  • Carcase conformation
  • Carcase weight
  • Fat class
  • Days to slaughter
  • Average daily carcase gain

We had a catch up with Ian Norbury, who runs the family farm near Knutsford in Cheshire. His plan for their business focuses around expanding his Angus herd, developing pedigree stock sales, achieving better carcasses quicker, driving down costs, while making the system easier for one person to operate.

Q : Ian, can you tell us about your farm & herd?
A: My farm is based in Cheshire where we farm Aberdeen Angus cattle. We have 60 sucker cows and 60 pure bred pedigree Aberdeen Angus sucker cows. All our stock is taken to finish and is sold as dead weight.

Q: And how long have you been recording sire information? Is this standard practice at your farm?
A: We always do – it is vital information which has to be captured and when we do, it always goes on to CTS.

Q: What information and data in Cattle manager do you look at mostly?
A: Cattle Manager gives us the ability to focus on key data. We can quickly and easily see information that relates to Kill-out percentage age when killed, time days calved and calving ease.

Q: And what information do you then filter and look at by sire?
A: Crucially, we’re able to get detailed carcase grade information which helps us make decisions going forward.

Q: Have you used any of the sire information to make herd management decisions?
A: As well as grade data, we also look at information around calf growth from heifers or cows.

Q: And finally, if you were to give one reason to #Shoutaboutthesire what would it be?
A: The underlying factor in this scheme is full traceability. I am a believer that information is power and thanks to Shout about the Sire, I now know that hypothetically, if I could clone one of my bulls, I know which one it would be.

To find out more about a series of changes that have proven to have transformational effects on Ian Norbury’s Cheshire farm check out our blog post here.

KisanHub pioneering supply chain platform integrates with Farmplan’s Gatekeeper farm management solution to provide a seamless experience for its users

The integration between KisanHub and Gatekeeper is set to improve data connectivity throughout the agri-supply chain, providing a single source of truth to better inform crop management and procurement decisions.

The KisanHub-Gatekeeper integration will be available in April 2020. It will enable users to take advantage of the array of functionality found on KisanHub’s platform, without manually duplicating any data. In a few clicks, growers can expressly permission selected crop zones and operations from Farmplan’s Gatekeeper onto the KisanHub platform.

Farmplan is a division of the global Proagrica business, best known for its core integration, workflow and insight solutions and is providing the data exchange capability to securely deliver the grower data.

Key to this integration, is the inclusion of crop boundaries from Gatekeeper into the KisanHub platform, a prerequisite of accessing other platform tools. These tools include a crop monitoring app, quality tracking with market suitability, pest and disease predictions and yield models.

Another key aspect is the importing of planting/sowing and harvest dates for these crops, which when combined with other platform data, provide the basis for crop management and procurement planning, improving operational efficiency and allowing more informed decisions.

Jonny Kerley, Head of Product at KisanHub explains: “Software systems in the form of point solutions have been used by the agricultural industry since the early 2000s and this process has accelerated in recent years with a number of agri-tech companies providing different solutions. These point solutions, for example a soil moisture sensor, rarely integrate or talk to each other, reducing accessibility.

“KisanHub’s horizontally scaled platform brings these data sets together in one place, allowing more accurate and informed decisions across the supply chain. Similar to the computing industry in the early 1980s, agri-tech solutions will transition from vertically integrated to horizontally scaled systems.

“This will revolutionise the agricultural industry, allowing easier exchange of information and standardisation across multiple systems. We are extremely excited at KisanHub to be an integral part of this journey, alongside precision farming and crop management systems such as Farmplan’s Gatekeeper. With the ease of use provided by Proagrica to connect and move this data between Gatekeeper and KisanHub it becomes easier to create connections saving both time and money.”

Growing up in the industry gave Jonny an early appreciation and affinity with agriculture, attributes that were deepened by 6 years as a research manager in agricultural and horticultural crop trials and a further role as an agri-food consultant.

Now, Jonny’s role at KisanHub is to steer and design the development of the software, particularly in the crop intelligence and data insights departments, to ensure it meets the 21st century requirements of the agricultural industry and provides solutions to on-the-ground customer problems.

Jonny further describes: “Data requires organisation and interpretation to provide information. This information becomes knowledge when the context is sufficient. Robust data, that is not contained in segregated silos is essential to the supply chain, something that KisanHub strives to provide, and is part of the reason for this integration with Gatekeeper through Proagrica.

“Our cloud-based platform and mobile app can capture and analyse data in context, providing actionable knowledge in real-time to our users. It also allows the platform to consolidate information across a wide geographical area, helping to anticipate and analyse crop parameters such as quality and yield across different fields, growers or regions. Data sets are connected yet secure; spread across remote sites, accessible anywhere and shareable when desired.”

KisanHub has developed the platform by working closely with our customers, including some of the largest growers and producer groups in the UK and global fresh produce sector: Ian Anderson the Divisional Managing Director at Burgess Farms Produce described: “Our focus is on delivering consistent premium quality at the lowest unit cost possible whilst delivering sustainable returns to our growers. To achieve this goal we need accurate data and advance knowledge of both crop and seasonal developments so that we can ensure optimum crop usage.

“The partnership between ourselves, our growers and the KisanHub team will allow us to use live data to help anticipate crop size splits and yields, to generate the maximum possible saleable fractions and the best financial outcome for our growers and customers.

“KisanHub’s platform enables us to capture data across a wide portfolio of growers and consolidate that information into one central resource. It provides an opportunity for us to access and analyse our data quickly, transforming the way we make these essential management decisions moving forward.”

Proagrica’s Precision Agriculture Development Director, Alistair Knott said: “This type of collaboration is exactly what is needed to ensure the value from systems data is scalably realised. Growers, agronomists and other service provider systems will, through choice or functionality, be different. Each has its place in the helping growers to be more productive and so more profitable, and so it is our responsibility to make our growers experience as easy and simple as possible. Gatekeeper, as the backbone IT system to so many growers, is ensuring that crop optimisation solutions such as KisanHub can seamlessly fit into that IT infrastructure”.

For further information on KisanHub, please visit the website at

This collaboration with KisanHub is one of the latest steps in Proagrica’s ongoing commitment to improve data connectivity in the agri-food supply chain.

Top data trends for farming in 2020

Many UK farms have faced great uncertainty over the last few years, whether due to political changes or shifts in a turbulent marketplace. However, there are clear trends: data will play a larger role in farming, as what is often termed the “data revolution” progresses both in the UK and abroad.

The challenge, however, is that with so many different tools available on the market, it is becoming increasingly difficult to determine which of these are not only functionally useful and valuable, but which will be relevant to the requirements of individual farmers.

Here are our thoughts on three predictions for data trends which will shape farming in 2020 and beyond:

  • Integrating data with farming becomes second nature
  • Greater insight will deliver greater efficiency on farms
  • Precision farming continues to rise

Farmplan joins with AutoEntry to reduce manual data entry on farm

Farmplan links with AutoEntry to help customers save time, improve accuracy and ensure consistency.

AutoEntry is a cloud-based software solution that captures data from bills, invoices, expenses and receipts. New integration with Farmplan now allows customers to upload this data directly into their Business Manager software via email, scan or snap with the mobile app.

“This latest development will considerably decrease the amount of time spent doing routine data entry, while improving the accuracy and consistency of information entered,” comments Sally Ashwell, Product Coordinator at Farmplan. “We have established a close relationship with AutoEntry and ensured our two systems work seamlessly together.”

“We are delighted to announce that all of our customers will enjoy a 10% discount for the first six months of AutoEntry use. A free trial is also available, so you can see if AutoEntry works for you without making a long-term commitment.”

Simon Dowd, Director of Business Development at AutoEntry, comments;

“Farmplan has been an important customer and partner of ours for some time now. We love what they do and really enjoy working with the team. We’re incredibly excited about delivering automation to the Farmplan community.”

Find out more and sign up for your free trial here.

Helping shape the future of crop software development

Here at Farmplan we’ve been asking arable farmers what essential crop record management tools they can’t live without.

Launched at Cereals in June, a crop management survey aimed to provide insight into the requirements, expectations and needs of arable farmers across the UK.

Sarah Alexander, Arable Product Manager, said: “We’re developing the next generation of crop management tools here at Farmplan, but one of the crucial elements in any development project is the insight gained from speaking with our customers and the wider arable sector. We have over 30 years’ experience in developing solutions for arable farmers but it is vital that we make sure that we meet our customers’ needs and adapt our products to respond to changes in the industry. We want to ensure that our products meet the needs of the market now and into the future.”

Key areas that the survey focused on included nutrient management and mapping, device management and precision farming and budgeting as well as integration of invoices and recommendations.

The respondents to the survey came from a mixed farm size background with the largest proportion being a farm owner/occupier/tenant/farm manager.

When looking at the responses we found that when it came to precision farming and mapping tools, nearly 100% of respondents said this was ‘essential’ or ‘nice to have’.

The survey confirmed that integration is really important to our users and is an area that we will be focussing on. We also need to ensure that it is quick and easy to share information with a range of providers, whether they are sending agronomist recommendations, delivery notes or invoices.

Sarah added: “These insights have confirmed many of our plans and provided us with key ideas which we can now take forward and consider how we bring them to life through our software development plans. We’d like to thank everyone that took part in the survey for sharing their ideas and requirements.”

To find out more about our Gatekeeper software, click here.

Windows 7 and Vista users warned to critically update their computers or risk cyber attack

Users running older versions of Windows are at risk of a highly spreadable ransomware attack that experts fear could be as troubling as the 2017 WannaCry cyber attack.

Microsoft alerted users to the ‘BlueKeep’ vulnerability earlier this year, but have warned more than a million computers are still vulnerable, with the tech giant stating all operating systems other than the latest Windows 10 or Windows 8 are at risk of being targeted by this cyber attack.

A ransomware attack is where the data on a victim’s computer is locked, typically by encryption, and payment is demanded before the ransomed data is decrypted and access is returned to the victim, and Microsoft says the ‘BlueKeep’ vulnerability is able to ‘worm’ its way into computer systems with no owner interaction at all.

Windows 7, Vista, Windows Server 2008 and all out-of-support operating systems are affected, meaning it is extremely important to consider upgrading your hardware at the earliest opportunity.

Further to this, Windows 7 will very soon reach the end of its lifecycle, with Microsoft ending support for the operating system on 14th January 2020. To find out more about the end of Windows 7 and how Farmplan can help you with the latest IT equipment, click here.