Last Friday I visited Tanlake Flowmetering at its site on the Burnett Business Park. It is a wonderful local success story dealing with 22 countries around the world providing state of the art metering equipment for the measurement of slurry. It can do this both in a static or mobile setting, where it is part of one of the most important developments of modern farming. The company develops complex software to ensure that the slurry can be spread evenly and to measure its nitrogen content.
Since Thomas Malthus wrote over 200 years ago that agricultural productivity could not keep pace with population growth, the reverse has been true. As so often a well-informed and interesting economic theory has turned out to be entirely wrong and food production has on average increased by 2% per annum. This has been achieved by increasing yields through the use of sophisticated technology. Tanlake is part of this process and in combination with better and more technologically innovative tractors fields can be mapped and then fertilised with great precision. This helps improve soil quality, saves costs and boosts productivity.
It was my good fortune to see how this happens in practice. The machines are truly amazing, I was shown a John Deer tractor that costs a little over £100,000 being put through its paces. It is at the cutting edge of driverless technology and can manoeuvre around a field with little human interaction, indeed the vehicle goes almost right up to a hedge before turning of its own accord, although a touch on the steering wheel will bring it back to manual control.
Understanding how the latest combination of hardware and software is improving agriculture productivity is fascinating. Driving a tractor is certainly exciting but the future of farming will be increasingly dependent on using this type of technology effectively and it is important that North East Somerset should be at the forefront of this activity.