Data driving farm business, says Nicole

‘Finger on the Pulse,’ a new episode from the Visible Farmer introduces tech-savvy grain and livestock farmer, Nicole Batten.

Running a family farm is no easy task with farmers having to face constant changes in the rural community, market prices as well as everchanging weather conditions. With so many factors playing a role in the success of a farm, more and more farmers are under pressure to adhere to modern technology advancements.

For Western Australian grain and livestock farmer, Nicole Batten, business no longer solely consists of just paddock work.

Batten Farms, located in the mid-west of Western Australia, about 500km north of Perth, is a mixed operation with 6,000 hectares devoted to grain production, 2000ha to a Dorper sheep stud and 2000ha to the production of Merino sheep. The diverse farm business is increasingly reliant on data and connectivity the same way that any other business would.  

“There’s so much that goes on in the office now,” Nicole said.

Nicole, alongside her husband and two children, manage their own grain marketing which requires them to stay on top of fluctuating daily commodity markets and make instant decisions.

“I keep an eye on the prices every day, I have a spreadsheet on our current contracts, I can see what’s coming in in real time.”

Episode 5 of Visible Farmer features tech-savvy grain and livestock farmer, Nicole Batten.

An increased pressure in the speed of decision making goes hand in hand with connectivity which Nicole says is one of the biggest challenges farmers face.

“The challenge is always with connectivity.

“We’re in a vast area, the population is not huge, service providers need to be able to make money as well but to be able to collect data, you need connectivity, to interpret it, you need connectivity, to use it, you need connectivity, that’s the biggest challenge for farmers,” Nicole said.

“It’s the world we live in, we have to be able to connect. Everyone calls your mobile phone, if they can’t get you then you lose business and you lose opportunities.”

Having been a farmer for 20 years, Nicole has experienced a number of significant changes in the community. Whether it be an increase in the number of females working on farms, or more women being urged to take on leadership positions.

One of the most concerning changes she has witnessed is the steady decline in the rural population.

“I’ve been a farmer for 20 years and the rural population has probably halved since then and that’s sad because the next generation, I really fear for their sense of isolation and their sense of community services,” Ms Batten said.

“I’m sure every town has lost either a hospital or a pub or essential community meeting places. At the end of the day, you can’t farm without people and you need to have happy, healthy people to have a happy healthy business and I think that’s underestimated.”

With farmers currently suffering through one of the worst droughts on record, Nicole says remaining optimistic is a key part of being a farmer.

Click here, to watch the full episode.

Tegan Scott

Is the Community & Engagement Officer at the National Farmers' Federation.

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