Soil and mapping tech a winner for South Australian farmer

EMBRACING technology and innovation, and all that it can help achieve on-farm, has earned young grain grower James Venning the 2022 Award for Excellence in Technology, sponsored by New Holland.

Staff writer
 James Venning from South Australia is the 2022 Award for Excellence in Technology winner.

James Venning from South Australia is the 2022 Award for Excellence in Technology winner.

James, a 31-year-old father of two, was presneted with the Award at the Kondinin Group and ABC Rural 2022 Farmer of the Year Awards, held in Canberra today.

He manages the family farming enterprise ‘Barunga Grains' situated near Bute on the northern Yorke Peninsula of South Australia.

Barunga Grains continuously crops 4700ha of wheat, barley, canola, and lentils on predominantly dune swale country.

Returning to the farm after high school, James has taken on a real leadership role particularly when appreciating how technology can support good business decision making.

"I have introduced several innovative solutions to the business to improve productivity both short term and for the future. This includes using soil sensing technology to gain a better understanding of the property and what it requires to perform. This has allowed us to apply variable rate fertiliser based on electronic zoning of paddocks, with zones featuring sand, grey soil and heavy clay," James said.

"We have weather stations to identify frosts and inversions for better spray application, moisture probes and a protein machine on the harvester. We use satellite imagery for guided crop scouting and elevation maps to identify low areas to help scout for frost damage after a bad frost. I have now mapped a large portion of the farm which has provided invaluable insight into the land.

"It has helped determine pH variability and enabled us to introduce a variable rate liming program to combat variable acidity issues and help improve nutrient availability. It's like before we did it, we were farming blind. Now we are informed and able to make specific decisions on a paddock and not waste inputs where they are not needed."

Ben White, General Manager of Research at Kondinin Group, said James' use of mapping and soil sensors has enabled him to farm smarter.

"Having a holistic understanding of your farm is one thing but being able to identify the needs of a specific area and what it needs to perform optimally can make a huge impact on your use of inputs. By embracing the tech available, James is gaining a better awareness of his land, and this will help lift the farm to the next level," Ben said.

James is open minded to new innovations and technologies and prepared to challenge established ideas and voice his opinions.

Tony Peters, Business Development Manager, Australia and New Zealand at New Holland, said James was a role model to young farmers looking to embrace technology on farm.

"James is getting the best out of his farm because he isn't afraid to consider new developments and solutions to old problems. He is also willing to share his experiences and knowledge with his community so everyone can benefit, and that exemplifies his commitment to the industry and makes him a very worthy winner of this Award for Excellence," Tony said.

James supports his community in many ways, including as the youngest President of the local grower group Northern Sustainable Soils (NSS). During his Presidency, James undertook a large-scale wheat frost trial on his property, and he has hosted several trials on the property including a phosphorus response trial under a SmartFarms grant and deep ripping/delving trial.

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