Starting the journey into digitising a fruit farm

Max Bangen
Max Bangen
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Topics: orchard management, grower stories

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In 1938, Johannes Watzig founded a 15-hectare arable farm right on the border between Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia in Germany. Today, Christoph and Florian Watzig, from the third and fourth generations respectively, run the family farm "Obstbau Watzig". 

Since its foundation, the farm has grown impressively and has been extended by more than 60 hectares of cultivated land for fruit. Approximately half of the area is devoted to apple varieties (30 ha). In addition, the Watzigs grow strawberries (17 ha), currants (6 ha), and several hectares of pears and plums. 

Managing a fruit farm of this size requires a lot of coordination and communication. During the year, Florian works with a team of 5 to 10 full-time employees, and during the peak season there are up to 50 picking aids working on the farm. That doesn't make it easy to keep track of everything

Droneshot of the family farm Obstbau Watzig

However, as co-responsible farm manager, he has to have a full overview of what work needs to be done, what the weather is like and which fields have already been sprayed, thinned or harvested - quite a challenge. 

"When I'm doing crop protection work with several people, the biggest challenge for me is keeping track of the fields we've already ticked off as a team," says Florian.

To make life a little easier for himself, he started looking into how he could more efficiently track and document which fields he and his team had already been on. 

"For that, I could share Excel spreadsheets with my team via a cloud and ask them to tick off the fields. But then I would still have to read over them every evening and check that everything is entered and documented correctly. So I thought to myself: there must be an app for something like that - these days there's an app for everything!" 

While searching for farm management systems, he came across Farmable. The fact that the app is developed specifically for fruit growers and that many features can be used for free made it easy for him to get started: "So, I could just test whether the app was something for us."

His first goal with the app was to be able to track live which fields had been worked on and thus to have an overview at all times of where employees had already finished their work. 

"What I really like about the app is the flexibility of the system, as it doesn't tell me to use certain equipment settings, crop protection product lists, etc.. I can enter everything as I use it on my farm and adapt it to our processes and ways of working."

After the initial trials, he decided to use the "Jobs" feature to schedule and track all his spraying within the app. To get the most out of the app, he discussed with the Farmable team how best to set up his farm in the app.

Setting up fields for crop treatments

Traditionally, field maps in Germany are often divided in the same way as they are in public area information systems for agricultural subsidies (e.g. in FLOrlp, FIONA, ANDI, etc.). 

"In the app, I could simply draw my crop categories and varieties as it makes sense for our farm and especially for plant protection, and you are not bound to pre-drawn areas," says Florian.

Visualization of how fields can be drawn differently and flexibly in the Farmable App, compared to many other traditional systems.

Florian's app set-up and screenshots of how fields can be mapped differently in the Farmable App.

His areas in the Farmable app therefore follow his category and crop protection strategy in order to map the productive areas that really need to be treated. This means that he has divided his areas according to crops and varieties that are treated more or less the same over the course of the season. This makes it even easier for him to plan and document his crop protection in one go.

In the future, it will also be easier to do cost and profitability analysis per crop and variety via Farmable. The reason for this is that all activities, costs and yields can be directly assigned to specific crops and varieties.

Entering products and application rates

He took an hour one Sunday to enter all his crop protection products into his list in the app. "Without a long list of crop protection products in the app, I can add what I really have in the chemical storage and actually use for my applications. It is much better to have only the products we use in the app than to have to scroll through a long list of chemical products," says Florian.

Setting up the equipment

Finally, he entered all the spraying equipment he and his team use. Over time and with a lot of experience, he and his staff have been able to optimise which nozzle settings to use on the fields and for the individual crops and varieties, in order to keep the need for plant protection products as low as possible. He also wanted to map these different settings in Farmable.

After brainstorming with the Farmable team, Florian came up with the idea of simply indicating the different settings, such as speed driven, pressure, number of nozzles and volume output for all his sprayers in the equipment name. This makes it easier for everyone in the team to make out the correct settings before crop treatments. Ensuring that the right rates are applied.

After setting up his fields, products and equipment, he has already created and tracked over 300 jobs on his farm in Farmable for crop protection, fertilisation and other jobs such as pruning, mulching, etc. 

"I find the multi-location job in the app particularly cool. For example, I drive through my fields and mark all dead trees as a location once. Then I can directly create two more jobs with the existing locations to replace and then water the trees. That saves time!"

Fields at Obstbau Watzig

Throughout the season, I was in close contact with Florian. We discussed use cases on Florian's farm via WhatsApp and exchanged ideas for new developments and improvements to the App and the Farmable Web Portal. Only through such close dialogue with active users and practitioners can we at Farmable develop a platform for orchards and vineyards that is truly useful for growers.

With the Farmable farm management platform specifically for fruit growing, you can easily map your own farm and working practices. Try out the latest features and get started setting up your farm by downloading the app from your app store. 

Want to talk directly to Team Farmable about how you can best use the app and the web portal on your farm? Then send us an email or WhatsApp message.

Max Bangen
Hello, I am Max and I work closely with growers from Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. I spend most of my time with talking to fruit and wine growers to better understand how they use new technologies and what their requirements are for Farmable in the future.