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Exploratory study into the acceptance of 'on farm' automated traceability systems

By Carla Pegurara Gasparin


The increasing pressure from retailers and consumers require that all farmers collect traceability data regarding the crops they produce and the name and application rate of the agrochemicals that they have used to produce them. In order to achieve this, automated traceability systems could be used to assist farmers in collecting the data required throughout the food chain to the market place. An Automated Agrochemical Traceability System (AACTS) was designed and developed at Cranfield University (Peets, 2009). This system is capable of automatically identifying and assisting in the precise weighing of the agrochemical loaded into a sprayer. The actual amount applied to crops growing in any given section of the field would then be recorded from the application maps obtained using precision farming methods. This work aims to identify the factors that inform the development of and the potential market uptake of the AACTS. Interviews with representatives of the interest groups in the food chain were conducted in order to identify their perceptions regarding traceability systems. Moreover, ten farm sprayer operators were asked to judge the sprayer with AACTS against sprayer without AACTS in terms of ease of filling, data management, investment cost, operator safety and accuracy of the data. The food industry supports the need for the AACTS and will accept the new technology if it reduces cost, time, business risk and increases value of certified produce. It was found that the weighted ranking of the sprayer with AACTS was greater than the sprayer without the AACTS at 0.68 opposed to 0.32 respectively. Peets (2009) showed that the AACTS has a resolution within 1 g with the engine switched off and 3.6 g when it is not. Furthermore, there is no significant difference in speed of operation between the AACTS and the manual method including loading and record creation time at the 5% probability level. The system would also automatically create the record of the agrochemicals used, their application rate and field distribution pattern. The price that a farmer would be willing to pay for the AACTS is positively related to the size of arable holding land, the cost of sprayer and the perception of the need towards the AACTS as found using an online questionnaire. Out of 119 respondents, 42% of the respondents perceived the need for the AACTS. This study estimated thedemand curve of the AACTS, according to this curve 4% of the farmers would buy the AACTS if it costs £3,500, 54% would buy if it cost £1,500 and 100% would buy it if it cost £200. According to the demand curve and production cost, the highest profit for the manufacturer of the AACTS could be obtained with retail price of £2,000 in Europe. Twenty seven face to face interviews were conducted with farmers in England to identified the perceived main benefits, these were; the potential improvement of stock control in the chemical store, the avoidance of use of incorrect agrochemicals, the reduction of time in the office for record keeping and improved accuracy when filling the sprayer in terms of both the correct chemical and the dilution rate. However, in order to fulfil the farmers’ requirements the AACTS should allow more rinsing space to wash out 10 and 20 litre containers. Furthermore the software and appropriate database should be programmed to enable the identification and loading of the corresponding generic agrochemical products. The existing traceability systems of three different types of farm enterprise: fresh produce, onion production and a conservation grade cereal farm were analysed and suggestions for improvements were explored. It was demonstrated that the AACTS can avoid market and financial loss for relatively small cost. The operation cost of the AACTS for an area of 900 hectares is £1.29 per hectare. Furthermore, there is a potential time and financial saving if the agrochemical application records are received electronically. However, the savings will depend on the capability of the computer and its reliability. At Clements, the production manager spends around 600 hours per year typing the agrochemical application records into the computer. A range of social science methods were used to estimate the market uptake of the AACTS. These included face-to-face semi-structured interviews with members of the food chain and farmers, the Analytical Hierarchy Process (AHP) to evaluate the prototype system of AACTS, and a Contingent Valuation (CV) questionnaire to estimate the farmers’ willingness to pay for the AACTS. The information gathered from their collective use showed that they provided a valuable suite of methods for product development

Publisher: Cranfield University
Year: 2009
OAI identifier:
Provided by: Cranfield CERES

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