Andrew Williamson  -  Precision farming – Can it help feed the world?

NFU Mutual Charitable Trust

I am 38 years old, and married to Caroline; we have three children James, 9, Hannah, 6 and Harriet, 2 mths. We live near Bridgnorth, in south Shropshire, where I am the managing partner of our family farming partnership. I returned home to join the partnership in 1999 after completing a Hons degree in Chemistry at the University of Bristol and travelling around the world working on farms in Australia, New Zealand and the USA. We farm 900 acres of predominately combinable crops, wheat, Oilseed Rape and Oats. Alongside this we let out some permanent pasture for sheep grazing and all the land we manage is covered by a Higher level stewardship scheme, the aim of which is to increase the level of farmland birds.

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 I have chosen to study Precision Farming – can it help feed the world? As farmers I believe the greatest challenge we face is how to feed a growing population. World population is increasing year on year, even though birth rates are decreasing. Added to this the land base to produce the food is declining, due to urbanization, poor agricultural practice and erosion. Therefore we are going to have to produce more from less, this is where precision farming can have a major impact on the way we produce food. I want to investigate how precision farming techniques can be fully utilised to make more efficient use of expensive and limited inputs, this could be through better soil sampling, real time canopy sensing, improved machine control and automation .  I have recently returned from the first leg of my travels to Canada, USA and Mexico, where I visited farmers, scientists, researchers and machinery manufacturers. More details of my travels can be found in my blog. I am planning to also visit South America, Australia and Europe.