David Kirkham manages Sustainable Agronomy, which is based in Nottinghamshire and covers approximately 20,000ha.
He recommends on a variety of crops including cereals, maize, oilseed rape, peas, beans, potatoes, sugar beet, vegetables and specialist crops.
His growers’ farms range in size from small holdings to large multi-site organisations with contracting interests.
David has been a long-term user of GateKeeper and recognises the benefits that an integrated software tool offers the busy agronomist.
“My services range from pesticide, seed and fertiliser advice, nutrient planning, cross compliance and crop production budgets.
“GateKeeper allows me to offer a variety of agronomic services above and beyond the focus of pesticide recommendations alone”.
Integration is crucial and one the key benefits of using GateKeeper.
Many of David’s customers are using GateKeeper themselves and this has allowed him to establish a smooth transfer of information between both parties.
Data is exchanged between grower and agronomist in a safe and secure manner.
Field and cropping information is normally set up by the grower and is supplied to David’s GateKeeper system in a digital format ready for him to start making his recommendations.
This two-way integration facilitates a more professional approach to the grower-agronomist relationship which minimises the risk for errors.
“Data changes such as setting up the new seasons cropping need to be made by a key individual as it is important field information is setup correctly to begin with.
“Once this is done, it is simple to create recommendations for my clients and use the field information from year to year”.
Where a customer does not have any crop recording software, David is able to enter his client’s field information from scratch and supply them with detailed recommendation reports which can be emailed direct from GateKeeper.
Once the grower has completed their field applications, the completed records are passed digitally back from their own GateKeeper system to David, at which point it updates his own records.
For the busy agronomist, this not only offers a valuable saving in time and effort, but completes the recommendation cycle.
Further recommendations can now be cross-referenced against what has been applied – vital for pesticide and fertiliser applications.
Out on the farm
As well as making use of the completed records in the office, GateKeeper’s Web Agronomist App is used to access these same field records while on-farm.
The app is operated from both his smartphone and tablet and displays the field records in a simplistic but effective view.
As well as the ability to view field records and create inspection notes, the app also gives access to the powerful Sentinel database which David uses to access pesticide product information.
The GateKeeper Web App is used to great advantage and allows David to browse the Sentinel online database to view product information and crop approvals.
Field records are also available as well as the ability to create field inspection notes and build orders.
In the office, Sentinel (with its ‘Active’ verification functionality) provides the verification checks on all proposed pesticide applications before they are issued to the grower or contractor.
The Sentinel database is interrogated behind the scenes to make sure that the product to be used will be applied to the correct crop and at the correct rates, time and growth stage all while cross-referencing against previous field applications and crop information.
Vital information such as harvest interval timings is supplied with each recommendation ensuring that both growers and contractors meet the stringent demands of Crop Assurance, ACCS, HSE, Cross Compliance and the customer.
“Sentinel works on a traffic light system which alerts me to any unforeseen issues with the proposed application. It offers a vital safety net which is brilliant. I wouldn’t be without it.”
GateKeeper’s Nutrient planning incorporates Planet’s RB209 decision support tool.
This allows nutrient recommendations to be generated ‘in-house’ using data that is already available.
Additional information such as soil sample analysis results are recorded against the fields by David.
This ensures a bespoke fertiliser plan is created for each customer.
“The Nutrient Management module in GateKeeper couldn’t be simpler.
“Taking the RB209 advice and inputting field specific information such as straw incorporation and predicted yields allows me to quickly create Nutrient Management plans and generate Nmax audits”.
The Nutrient Management module utilises RB209 against the backdrop of field records that are already in GateKeeper to provide a crop’s nutrient requirements.
A full range of reports are available and fertiliser applications can be verified against nutrient management calculations and Nmax requirements.
David states that the ability to quickly generate a ‘whole-farm average’ report based on applied fertiliser is one of the many benefits of having nutrient management incorporated within GateKeeper.
Proposed fertiliser applications are verified against both nutrient management guidelines and N-max requirements.
As well as advising on the products that are to be applied, GateKeeper allows David to create an order based on his recommendations for pesticides, seeds and fertilisers.
David says that the process is “simple” and once created the order can be emailed to the supplier whilst the recommendation is issued to the grower and contractor.
One of the additional GateKeeper modules which has become a real asset to the Sustainable-Agronomy offering, is the Budget module.
David is able to meet his customers’ requests for creating crop production budgets.
Budgets are simple to create and draw on information that is already in GateKeeper such as customer field lists and products.
“I am able to create budgets for customers who are looking at diversifying into new crop types for example. Once generated, budgets can be emailed across to accountants and other key stake holders.
“Typical crop protection schedules are entered into the budget and product prices are drawn from the list of products that I recommend and which are updated frequently. That way the prices are accurate and current”.
With all of this information on GateKeeper, David takes advantage of the ‘Data Secure’ backup facility which provides a remote and confidential ‘archive’ of his data.
This option provides peace of mind to many GateKeeper users and forms part of David’s daily GateKeeper routine.
Moving forward, David’s aim is to utilise the Farm Mapping module as part of his day to day routine.
In particular, creating nutrient management maps that indicate fertiliser ‘no-spread zones’. This will further add to his agronomy offering and will fit in seamlessly to his GateKeeper system.