Many questions and conversations later, he introduced soil sampling, borrowed a yield monitor and a GPS receiver (GPS was first unveiled in 1995 and became the technology trigger which allowed so much to happen) and by the law of unintended consequences was able to combine this technology to make it possible to understand the variability and begin the process of understanding and in turn, better manage the land.
A chance meeting at Scottish Agronomy and a shared intrigue for yield mapping brought Jim and Robert Ramsay together and in the following weeks and months it became clear to them that interest in precision agriculture was increasing and it was wildly apparent there was a real business opportunity in their midst.
It was the Royal Highland Show in June 2000 that acted as the initial launchpad for their newly created precision agriculture company, SoilEssentials. Now, celebrating their 15th anniversary this year, coincidentally being the International Year of Soils, having returned to the RHS every year since, they will mark this celebratory occasion with pride.
The two directors, Jim Wilson and Robert Ramsay, each with a working farm and a firm passion for all that is precision, never sit on their laurels. With a heritage in farming practices, the ability to use and test their innovative products in-situ, is still so important. The company now employs a staff of 20, with the majority based at the head office at the foot of the Angus Glens in Scotland. This is further supported by an Area Sales Manager in the Borders and a Regional Sales Office in York. As the Trimble® designated authorised resellers for Northern UK, SoilEssentials blend this with a complementary portfolio of products and services of their own. Both Jim and Robert are regularly in demand as speakers, for their knowledge, insight and enthusiasm of the subject to a wide array of groups, organisations and educational institutions both here and abroad.
Jim says “The fundamentals of agriculture don’t change. When farming was all manpower and horses, we were much more in tune with where soil textures changed, where crops yielded well and where a particular weed was a problem. But with the drive towards ever bigger farms and machines, and the amalgamation of smaller fields into one larger one, the crop and soil variation, although still there, was largely ignored. Now, with precision agriculture, we can get the best of both worlds. We can keep the efficiency of large machines, but manage crops and soils at the appropriate level of detail.”
With three divisions – Agronomy, with soil sampling, area measuring and mapping (EssentialsMap), Machine Control – with Trimble® Agriculture kit and SoilEssentials’ complementary products such as EssentialsNet and EssentialsRootYield and their third division, Software Development – the in-house team of IT professionals taking forward projects to further push the boundaries of possibilities and further introduce new platforms to enhance the farmer’s life and their profitability. In addition, a research agronomist was brought on board last year to progress the ever-increasing project opportunities – at present working in partnership with Newcastle University and Innovate UK, projects with the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) and even the European Space Agency.
Current crop prices are forever diminishing so the investment in more efficient and effective methods, as well as keeping and improving our green credentials are a constant.
Robert tell us “The entire SoilEssentials team is driven by the desire to improve farm efficiency and so, environmental sustainability. Our customers have massively improved their output per unit of consumption and we can see this becoming more important every year. As European governments struggle to hit their carbon targets they are increasingly realising that they have to turn to agriculture as part of the solution. Emissions will have to be reduced and soil managed as a carbon store for the long term. Only land managers can use plants to take CO2 out of the atmosphere and into solid form in our plants and soil. Precision farming offers the tools to improve this process.”
The agricultural show season is full and varied and SoilEssentials participate in numerous events throughout the year. The company understands the positive impact of personal contact and value the Shows as opportunities to talk and discuss everything Precision Agriculture with existing customers, new clients, partners and industry specialists. From LAMMA in January, YAMS in February through Precision Farming in March, there’s a short space for a breather before focusing on Cereals at Boothby Graffoe, Lincolnshire which takes place the week before the Royal Highland Show at Ingliston, Edinburgh in June. SoilEssentials will also be in attendance at the Potatoes in Practice event in August, hosted by The James Hutton Institute, British Potato in November and with a visit to Agritechnica in Germany (a biennial must-see) also on the cards, this should see the calendar complete.
Always ready to challenge themselves, SoilEssentials, as agricultural innovators, will continue to develop and deliver high quality, fit-for-purpose products and services in the field of precision farming. With the industry forever changing and new technologies emerging, SoilEssentials have their eyes set firmly on the future. Here’s to the next 15 years.