​Whatever’s next in agriculture motor technology, you can be sure we’ll cover it

Agri Blog 003

By Malcolm Cawsey, Product Manager: Agriculture at ERS

ERS wrote its first farm tractor policy back in the 1970s. I know this because I found the policy document recently in an old filing cabinet and decided to take it on tour with us as part of our recent ‘ERS Presents: Agriculture’ events. It might not have the same historical value as, say, the US Constitution or the Dead Sea Scrolls, but it shows the heritage we have in the Agricultural space.

Of course, the insurance world I remember joining in the 1970s was very different to the one we know and love today – a computer-free zone in which the preeminent form of communication was the written letter. 

Technology has changed the agriculture sector too, tech-enhanced machinery has grown bigger and bigger, allowing farmers to get more done, which has in turn enabled farms to expand and be more efficient.

Times are changing 
When we wrote our first farm policy, it was to cover a simple tractor best described as rudimentary. Most machinery in the 70s was of a similar ilk – the machines did their job well, but they also broke down regularly and could be brutal for the poor farmer stuck operating them for 11 hours’ a day. Today’s tractor machine cabs have air conditioning and comfy seats; in the 70s cabs did not even exist, leaving farmers mercilessly exposed to the elements.

Add to this built-in SatNav and radio comms, innumerable sensors for assessing machinery performance and even the ability to automatically determine when servicing is required, and you start to get a sense of the technological leaps that have been made by machinery manufacturers over the past few decades. 

The future of Farm Machinery tech?
There may a small handful of farmers that haven’t embraced change, but the majority have recognised the huge efficiency advantages enabled by technology. The question is: where will agriculture tech take us next? Here are a few of my predictions:

1. Autonomous vehicles are coming. Many different machines are already under development and farms represent logical places to start using them, though it may be that we see more of them deployed in the USA and Canada than in Britain’s fair pastures. In a country of small, irregularly-shaped fields, flanked by farm gates and narrow country lanes, there’s a lot more potential for things to go wrong!

2. Small is the new big. To crack the British market for autonomous tractors, we may well see manufacturers coming full circle and developing smaller machines again as they’ll be easier to manoeuvre without human input and potentially operate 24/7
3. Say goodbye to weeding woes. Machines are already under development that can interact with the growing plants they come into contact with, allowing them to identify what’s a weed and what isn’t and avoid fertilising this unwanted plant life and remove it

4. Are farms electric? We already work with some UK farms who already use small electric commercial vehicles, but a glimpse of the future can be found within motor racing, often the hotbed for innovations that later make it out into the wider market. Formula E cars used to only have enough power for half the race, forcing teams to bring two along just to compete. It’s astonishing to see how quickly battery life has improved on the Formula E circuit; in years to come this will make electric vehicles a winner even on the largest farming estates. 

Protecting Farm machinery – old and new Having worked in this sector longer than most, we’ve developed a pretty good idea of customers’ needs and how brokers can best support them. That’s why, two years ago, we created a dedicated agriculture underwriting support team led by Chloe Davies in Swansea. 

The 12-strong team are responsible for all operational issues such as processing MTAs, loading new business quotations, issuing quotations within their authority, acting as the first port of call for broker enquiries, and dealing with renewals including issuing claims experiences.

Since we launched the team, telephone calls have been answered on average in less than 10 seconds and quotation turnaround is now just five hours for standard quotes. Not only is this level of service a world apart from the 1970s, but it’s a great benchmark from which to go forward, whatever twists and turns there are in the ongoing journey of agricultural tech evolution.

If you have an Agriculture risk you’d like to discuss, contact the team on 0345 600 2284 or email agriculturequotes@ers.com

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