My role as a SOYL area manager is as diverse and varied as some of the farms we work with around the country. As the months of the year change, so too does the job. One day may involve connecting a GPS system to a drill or a spreader controller, while the next can be spent discussing in-depth cropping details and nutrition with our customers.
Growers are always striving to improve yields and it has become obvious in recent years that a data-driven precision approach is essential for any business that wants to move forward. As a SOYL area manager myself, this helps make the role particularly satisfying given the responsibility we have in supporting farmers to make their business more profitable, sustainable, environmentally sound and future proof.
What does an area manager actually do?
Advice and consultancy
The main objective of a SOYL area manager's role is to support and service our customers. However, we first of all need customers in order to do this! Therefore our initial job is to meet growers, introduce SOYL and the services we offer to their local area, and explain how these services will be of benefit to them and their business. Our advice and considerations are always tailored, with potential customers ranging from a 100 hectare family farm to a 10,000+ hectare farming enterprise. It is a great to talk to such a diverse range of people and help them to discover how precision crop production could support their farm business.
Discussing results and maps
When we carry out work on a farm for the first time, the results from that work need to be presented and explained to the customer. This involves mapping the farm, highlighting what the maps show and discussing how the findings might now influence fertiliser or seed usage. Quite often there will be comments from the customers such as, "That part of the field always struggles" and the data provided now gives them the insight needed to understand why.
Fertiliser recommendations and crop nutrition
If we don't already hold it, all SOYL area managers are required to gain the BASIS Fertiliser Advisers Certification and Training Scheme (FACTS) qualification. This enables us to talk confidently to farmers about crop nutrition and fertiliser recommendations. As well as this, having an in-depth understanding of the nutritional values of different mucks and manures is important too. The use of different sources/types of manure on farm is a particular aspect of crop nutrition that is growing.
Technology and support
As a service business, technical support plays a big part. As the technology we offer develops, so too does the corresponding support:
- iSOYL – this is our own variable rate app and we therefore fully service and support this system, both at the initial set up and configuring it to work with a second implement controller.
- Other GPS systems – many of our customers use other GPS systems for variable rate applications, so we help with getting these set up correctly.
- MySOYL – all of the data we produce for our customers is available to view on MySOYL, our online platform that every SOYL customer has access to. This platform has many very interesting and powerful tools, so we often spend a considerable amount of time with our customers to help them to understand its broad range of capabilities.
Liaising with the office team
Time spent on farm always results in a new list of jobs to do. With that comes the requirement to liaise with SOYL's office-based team who help us deliver what we've promised to our customers on farm. In addition, there's always frequent contact with other area manager colleagues in the team so we can advise one another on things such as GPS systems or certain niche crops.
A rewarding role
Over the last 25 years, SOYL has led a revolution in precision farming in the UK. We all take great pride in the service we are giving and the impact it has on food production. Whilst we are relatively large, everyone here has a voice and works with our senior management to help improve the business for the future. In fact one of colleagues, precision farming and agricultural consultant, Jon Gooden summed it up perfectly: "I aim to strike up good relationships with growers so they feel they can call on me when they are talking strategies and fertiliser policies... I take a consultative approach. The pleasure of taking on new farms, contributing to reducing costs and helping farmers increase their productivity through precision services is very rewarding. It encourages you to keep strengthening existing relationships and is the drive to start new ones."
As we start to approach the time of year where we produce a lot of data for farms, I am very much looking forward to taking results back to customers and preparing fertiliser recommendations for the new season ahead as an area manager for SOYL.