Agriculture 4.0 as a future-proof solution for a young entrepreneur
Wohlfrom Farm is situated just off the A7 in Höhe Ellwangen (Jagst), nestled in the centre of the farmland. The medium-sized farm is mostly made up of arable land and some grassland. Christian Weik often travels within a radius of around 80 km to offer services as a contractor with his father-in-law’s crop sprayer For many years now the two men have been offering crop protection services based on the cutting-edge technology of their self-propelled vehicle. The changing times have led them to expand their range of services. Over the past two years they have been offering more and more “Smart Farming” services, which are becoming increasingly important in addition to their original purely contract work.
Christian Weik is not a newcomer to the agricultural industry. The agricultural engineer, who had a solid training at the Hohenheim University of Applied Sciences, started working in the field for an agricultural retailer five years ago. A year ago, after much deliberation, he decided to become an independent agricultural service provider.
On his future wife’s farm, there are around 120 ha of land to cultivate. The current crop rotation includes winter rapeseed, winter wheat and silage maize. In addition, they cultivate several hectares of triticale. Wohlfrom Farm also raises broilers for the well-known poultry meat supplier WIESENHOF as part of a formal contract. Since 2018, the broilers have been raised according to the requirements of the “Animal Welfare Initiative”. “WIESENHOF made this a condition to ensure acceptance in the future,” says the 26-year-old young entrepreneur.
The service provider explains why he has considered offering the rather important crop protection services. “Increasing demand and better capacity utilisation than with a chopper or combine harvester distributed over the year are very important for me. With a self-propelled sprayer, certain important special measures, such as the treatment of rapeseed flowers or timely and efficient control of the European maize borer, can be done effectively despite the large plant population. The same goes with the late application of AHL fertiliser with hoses to the existing population.
The range of services tends increasingly towards a complete package. Customers really appreciate the fact that they do not have to constantly keep up with the latest findings from the industry. The issues of residual quantities and storage are also solved by this service. This way, workload peaks are greatly reduced, particularly on dairy farms. This is something that Christian Weik experiences regularly.
„Professional software is indispensable for this business.”
“In addition, my professional software makes it easier to create detailed invoices. The automatic documentation already provides lots of data without any additional manual recording being needed. “Upon request, customers can also obtain CC-compliant, recognised documentation,” says Christian Weik. Clear use logs that detail machine use and related resource consumption help with commercial considerations.
He says that so far the new German Fertilising Ordinance has had little impact on business. But according to the agricultural contractor, this will change by next season at the latest. The new deliberations in Berlin for the next season are casting their shadows ahead. “It may be the case that the upper limits for N-fertilisation will no longer be by farm but by field. In addition, it seems that the balance (N-surplus) of 50 kg/ha that has been tolerated until now will not be tolerated for much longer.
Therefore, the currently implementable, section-specific concept will experience a boost in popularity. Farmers must work in a more targeted way to secure the required yields from the fields in the long-term and not reduce the upper fertilisation limits even further year after year due to increasingly smaller harvests.” Of this Christian Weik is convinced. He already has the prerequisites for these developments on the farm. He has both the technology and the software-based farm management system needed and has extensively tested it in practice. Site-specific fertilisation right up to the edge of the field is possible with the self-propelled sprayer.
The young entrepreneur also offers support with software-related issues or with installations and instructions. Christian Weik also sees a considerable need for support in the efficient creation of the documentation required by the new German Fertilising Ordinance. “Some customers are already asking me if we can take care of this for them. In any case, we must consider offering this as part of our complete package if it makes sense for all parties involved. At any rate, data is automatically accessible at the important points – and so are instruments. There would be lots of advantages of working with us for customers. The knowledge gained from the German Fertilising Ordinance calculations could be used by us in the practical advice we offer and help us to come up with new measures.”