Smart farming services offer savings and sustainability

Christel Thijssen is the owner and proprietor of Loonbedrijf Thijssen, an agricultural contracting business specialising in smart farming. Loonbedrijf Thijssen is based in Nieuwehorne, Netherlands and operates across the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Germany, Poland, and the UK. In 2019 Loonbedrijf Thijssen purchased a T174 Direct but has recently sold this tractor and bought a Valtra T175 Direct.

Christel Thijssen offers smart farming services to his clients that include soil and crop analysis and precision application of fertilizer and crop protection products. Christel is a strong believer in the power of smart farming and has previously spoken with Valtra about how he uses smart farming data in communication and cooperation with his clients. We caught up with him recently to see how things have advanced in recent years.

Read: Valtra makes precision farming accessible to everyone

Why Christel Thijsen chooses Valtra

Christel admits Valtra was not his first love. “When I started my own company, I wanted to buy [another brand’s model], but it was too expensive. That’s when at an auction, I saw a red Valtra, 1 year old, with about 400 hours. My friend always drove a Valtra. And I’ve never heard bad things about Valtra, so I bought that one. That was back in 2010, and I drove it until 2018-2019. And I’ve never had problems with that T191! And then I bought a T174, which I had for four years, and now I have this T175.

But price isn’t the only determining factor for Christel. He also prefers Valtra over other brands because the tractors and technology are easy to use.  

Smart services for better farming

Christel Thijssen performs soil scans with a Veris MPS3 soil sensor & Soil Reader and monitors crops using Ebee specialist drones. The Veris MPS3 soil sensor measures a range of soil properties including the amount of organic matter and pH. He explains, “With the Soil Reader and Veris you can really manage your soil and know exactly what’s in it. Then, for example, you can know exactly where to apply lime so that your plants will grow healthily.

The next stage in the process is to use either drones or satellite data to monitor how the plants are growing in the field. When combined, this data provides the evidence Christel needs to inform the prescription map. Plans are then created in cooperation with the farmer. Christel explains, “The farmer may ask us to apply a certain amount of fertilizer, but we have the data to show how much is really needed. The farmer puts their case forward, and I explain the data we have, and together we make the right decision.” Once a prescription map has been agreed with the client, Christel uses Cloudfarm and TaskDoc to wirelessly send the task to the tractor. “When we arrive at the field, we can simply open SmartTouch and know we’ll apply just the right amount to the right spot. In this way, you can save for example, lime, manure, fertiliser, and other chemicals.” 

Over the last four to five years, Christel has noticed an increase in the number of clients requesting access to the smart farming data he collects. For example, when he started, only around 20 to 30 of his customers were interested in smart farming data. Now, he estimates that 60 to 70 of his dairy farm clients request the data. These are mostly younger farmers. He notes "When farmers ask me what data I collect, I tell them, and we have a discussion about how they can use this data. For example, with precision farming data you can know how much grass you’re harvesting and know about the quality. This can then influence how you manage your feeding programme for the cows.”     

Smart farming savings

Loonbedrijf Thijssen has around 100 clients and spreads fertiliser on many hectares split roughly between 30% arable and 70% dairy. Valtra Variable Rate Control is used for precision application on around 80% of the hectares he works on. Christel estimates that together with electronic weeding, his smart farming technologies save up to 80% on chemical inputs.

Smart sustainability

For Christel, the starting point is the soil. “The soil is the basis of your company. I say you don’t feed the plants, you feed the soil. In my opinion, if you can apply the right minerals to the right spot at the right time, then you get a healthier crop, and when you’ve got your crop growing healthily, you’re not going to be spraying as much.”

Christel says the increased focus on sustainability in recent years has led to more work. “If we can use less fertiliser, less chemicals, but increase our production with a good tractor and machine, then we can make a lot of money in my opinion!”.

Christel takes sustainability seriously. He says his son is his motivation for building a better future, “We mustn’t go onto the land we manage and farm in the same way as we did years ago. We have to look to the future. Not only for me but for my son. He's 13 years old, and I want to make a new future for him. That’s my target.” 

Sustainability at Valtra

Read more about sustainability at Valtra.

sustainability at Valtra