Farmplan, the UK’s leading agricultural software specialists, recently launched a new upgrade for their widely-used Gatekeeper software that allowed seamless integration with Rural Payments Agency (RPA) digital boundaries. For Robert Drysdale, based on Monymusk Land Co. in Aberdeenshire, this extended functionality has lent extra value to the digital solution which already plays a vital role in their regular farming operations.
“I’m a long-term Farmplan customer and Gatekeeper user,” says Robert. “We’ve been using Gatekeeper for years. It’s essential for what we do in terms of crop recording and data management.”
The new functionality allows users to quickly and easily import boundaries into Gatekeeper, letting growers effortlessly match their fields against registered field boundaries and thus add a spatial element to their own records. This unlocks further activities that greatly add value on the farm, including the creation of general farm management maps, greater support for precision farming activities, and better integrate with service providers, agronomists and contractors.
While the new Gatekeeper functionality has been widely depicted as utilising digital boundaries from the Rural Payments Agency (RPA), compatibility actually goes further than this would suggest. Scotland, where Robert is based, does not use the RPA – growers can access a similar system provided by the Scottish government. However, as Robert discovered, Gatekeeper was still able to integrate the new functionality despite the different source.
“We’ve not previously used any digital mapping,” says Robert. “In Scotland, we can go online and view the maps but can’t actually directly do anything with them. We use these to measure against our fields manually. As time went on, we concluded that we needed digital recording of our data against the maps that we have and couldn’t continue to rely on the inefficient previous setup.”
“We did investigate numerous platforms. We chose Gatekeeper because it lets us have all the mapping and data together in one system that’s under our control. Using Gatekeeper just made sense.”
Robert also highlighted Gatekeeper’s independence as a key deciding factor. All data is kept under their ownership, without being tied to agronomy, soil sampling, or tractor manufacturers. As Robert puts it: “it’s your data and it’s up to you what you do with it. It’s not tied up with anything else, making it easier to keep your data separate from purchasing decisions.”
Robert was cautious at first, as he wasn’t sure if Gatekeeper’s mapping would work with the Scottish system. To his surprise, it worked perfectly. Working with Farmplan, he was able to download the field outlines and integrate them into his mapping program. The whole process was seamless and took just half an hour.
“It’s a bit early to see the full consequences,” says Robert. “We’ve got a few hundred fields to enter. I’m anticipating that having all our data in one place will unlock multiple benefits, however. We’ll be able to look at all the layers of our business next to each other, without having to switch between different data sets. There won’t be any more looking at yield maps and wondering if something in particular is causing a certain result, before having to go to the soil file and piecing it all together. Instead, everything will be easily to hand. We can focus on the farming itself.”
Robert also noted that the new functionality will help his business as they strengthen their environmental focus in light of future support schemes. Possessing maps of headland boundaries and other information will be critical for their application processes and instructing staff on best practice. The accessible data trail will also make demonstrating compliance nearly instantaneous.
In terms of long-term benefits, what else will this Gatekeeper functionality deliver? “Increased efficiency,” adds Robert. “At first this will just help streamline office administration. Gatekeeper is straightforward and has everything we need in terms of official and agronomic records so, for example, we’re able to more easily adhere to compliance, which is important to us.”
“Going forward, our business will progress further down the digital route. We’ll be able to take full advantage of that landscape, by sharing GPS route maps with the tractors and things like that. Gatekeeper will be the connection point between our different systems. This mapping functionality is key part in doing so and achieving greater momentum for our business in the future.”