agricultural End User social networking

@JRainy – bread the numbers

You get roughly 3000kgs (3Tonnes) of wheat per acre. An 800g loaf of bread has around 600g of wheat giving us 5,000 loaves-worth an acre.

I learned via @JRainy on Twitter that it takes a combine harvester 3 hours to harvest 8 acres of wheat which in my book makes it 0.044 acres or 222 loaves of bread a minute.

This year’s wheat crop is only 10million or so acres of which 15% is milling wheat suitable for breadmaking. We obviously eat a lot of bread – work it out!

Interesting eh?

Check out the Lincolnshire wheat harvest in action here – thanks to John Rainsforth 🙂

You heard it first on…

Business internet

I love <3 :))

I note there is a new website about where I live. Not about my house exactly. I suspect I’ll never merit a blue plaque. I’m talking about I’ve always felt that Lincolnshire was not as favoured with visitor information as it could be. I don’t even know why I was looking – I guess I like to find out stuff about my home town.

In fact way back when I first had internet access (dial up) I made a point of looking for Lincoln based websites. As I recall I could only find three at the time including Gino’s Italian Restaurant in the Bail which I remember as being quite good and thinking that it was quite enlightened at the time for a restaurant to have a site. Gino died last year but the restaurant is still going. I don’t remember what the other sites were – I lost the list of favourites in a pc upgrade/move sometime. Must have been a long time ago now (young feller me lad).

Although the web is a global phenomenon it very much applies to communities both small and local and there will always be plenty of opportunities to find niches where you can make a bit of cash. I’ve no idea how much money is made by It’s all down to advertising1 page impressions or click-throughs and referral fees for hotel bookings etc.

The key is clearly to make the site attractive and informative so that people will want to visit and more’s to the point link to from other websites. could end up as a nice little business.

This brings us then to the completely new set of skills that a business owner has to acquire in this modern web based world. Not only does he or she have to understand the ins and outs of Search Engine Optimisation but putting together a website ain’t exactly plug and play. You can build very simple websites using tools provided by commercial web hosts (eg Lincoln’s very own WebHostingBuzz) or even use hosted platforms such as provided by but you will probably end up with fairly limited functionality.

So if you are a small business starting up you need to outsource your web design which of course you have to pay for. You can also pay for specialist SEO. It’s all cash out of the business before you even open the doors. Nothing new there then – all you are doing is replacing your shop fitting costs with different technical skills. Then it’s all about content – the modern shelf full of goods.

Kids grow up with this stuff. It’s their world; today. If you aren’t down wiv da kids don’t despair but you will have to work harder at it. Perhaps I’ll make sure one of my kids ends up as a web developer.

In the meantime good luck to Give it your support. Use it, link to it. Tell your friends and relations about it. It’s a great domain name and it deserves to succeed.

1 I’ve never considered carrying advertising on but that is because I have a different agenda. I do link through to Timico wherever appropriate.

PS it was years before I actually visited Ginos and I was pleasantly surprised. Don’t leave it that long before visiting Lincolnshire – you can book through 🙂

PPS It’s not my website btw 🙂

agricultural Business

The Lincolnshire pea crop – feeding the nation

3 pea viners in action with attendant tractor and hopper in fields near Manton in Lincolnshire If you’ve ever grown peas at home you will know how wonderful freshly picked peas from the garden can be. The only problem is that they need to be planted in industrial quantities to get a decent crop. In my own experience a single home grown crop only lasts one meal. Rubbish eh?

So when Christopher Day (@themanorhousebb) invited me to see the Lincolnshire pea harvest in action boy did I get excited:). On a dank drizzly Sunday we turned off the A15 and drove down a track looking for pea viners.

The Green Pea Company Ltd had 3 machines working fields  near Hibbaldstow in Lincolnshire where the harvest is in full swing – keeping the nation fed. Where would our fish and chips be without peas? This is vital work.

There was a mobile workshop in the corner of the field and we stopped there to talk to the vining team. Once it has begun the pea harvest continues 24 hours a day for two months. Teams work 12 hour day/night shifts on a 2 week rotation. After donning a fluorescent safety jacket I got a ride with Glen.

The cabs are not as high tech as the Quadtrac but that is quite possibly a personal choice of the owner of the kit. All the driver has to do is steer though. Everything else is automated. Harvesting rate, weight in the tank – all controlled by computer.

Pea pods are “bashed” by metal tines under the viner and are effectively sucked into the belly of the machine where the casings are mechanically removed and the peas “popped” into one of two storage tanks. When the peas are offloaded to an external tractor-towed hopper they start with the most recently filled tank so that the “older” peas remain near the top when taken to processing. That hopper is taken to a bigger lorry which transports the peas back to the factory, in this case near Hull.

The viners are pricey – at £300k a pop they re even more expensive than the Quadtrac. With three of them on a job plus the other kit we are looking at a million pounds worth of cash driving around the field. They are also not as wide because the whole vehicle needs to be able to travel on the public highway without having to unbolt the front mechanism so they can’t process as much acreage as a Quadtrac. The average speed depends on many factors – weight of peas on the vine, ground conditions and instructions from the Birds Eye factory on how much tonnage they need at any given point in time. A typical average over the whole season is around a hectare per hour per machine.

Peas must have been a luxury item in the “old days”. No machines then, just men with scythes and teams of workers picking the pods off the vine. Expensive to harvest plus in my mind likely to have more losses due to the imprecise nature of the scything.

Today each machine weighs 27 tons and can carry 2 tonnes of peas. That’s heavy man. If you happen to find yourself stuck behind a convoy of viners consider yourself unlucky. They travel at 25kmh. With a convoy of 3 viners, a tractor towing a hopper, water and diesel trailers together with outrider vehicles overtaking is going to be a problem but hey… what price peas?

The teams work to specific instructions from Birds Eye who also send testers1 into fields beforehand to test the peas for quality & readiness to pick. Birds Eye even tell them how much weight of peas to store in the tank before tipping into the hopper.

All so that I can enjoy my steak and chips (and fish and burger and sausage and chicken and veggieburger etc etc 🙂 )peas peas glorious peas - click to see more peas :)

The Green Pea Company harvests thousands of tonnes of peas in a season using 15 viners. I went away with two carrier bags full as a memento of my time there. Thanks to farmer Christopher Day, The Green Pea company, Birds Eye and finally to Glen for letting me drive around the field in the viner with him.

They are big boys toys – quadtracks and viners. The question is where do I go from here?

1A lot of testing goes on in the farming business. The two photos below show Christopher Day’s soil samples and testing kit. The days of the bumpkin farmer with a long piece of straw between his teeth and a straw hat are gone. The complexity of the business is such that you need qualifications and certificates to grow stuff these days.
soil samples on shelves - simplesa farmer's basic soil testing kit

End User social networking

Twitter engagement – Lincolnshire Police & Lincoln Prison

All is at peace at dawn outside Lincoln PrisonWe can see Lincoln prison from the back of our house. Last night there was a helicopter out there circling for some time. I took a a pic but it was too dark.

I tweeted “helicopter circling Lincoln prison – wonder what’s going on”.

This morning I got a reply from @Lincspolice (ie Lincolnshire Police) saying “@tref We were searching for a missing person”

Pretty good proactive PR I’d say. Lots of organisations could learn from them. I’ve followed them. I’m follower number 5,592.

Header photo is the view at dawn from our house over towards Lincoln prison – v arty I think.

End User fun stuff

photo mania madness must stop

It is only recently that I mentioned taking a Gig’s worth of photos at the Lincolnshire show using my Samsung Galaxy S3. Well this photo mania madness must stop. Last night I rattled off almost 2.5Gigs worth. Storage is cheap but not that cheap and I have to consider what on earth I will do with all these photos and videos.

The Galxy S3 has a “best photo” mode so that when I shoot in burst mode it deletes 19 out of 20 shots and keeps the best one. This is sensible. Burst mode is good for taking lots of fast changing scenes and for those with limited photographic skills – “there is bound to be one good one amongst all that lot”.

The trouble is I like to take my time over chosing the best photo so I don’t use that particular feature.  The problem is then exacerbated bythe fact that I never have the time to sort through the pictures. I’m probably going to live with it and convince myself that storage is not that expensive.

The problem then arises in how do I tag objects in the photos. Google et al seem to let you tag people in photos and they then identify them in others. I have shied away from this for privacy purposes but I may end up tagging – especially if I can do it privately on my PC.

The photo below was carefully selected from the 2.5GB taken yesterday. I think it is a very artistic shot of the rescue boats taken at dusk on the Brayford Pool in Lincoln during the Olympic fireworks display. In the style of the Impressionists wouldn’t you say?

impressionist view of the Brayford Pool in Lincoln - click to see more

End User fun stuff

Tom Wood beer and wooden biros at the Lincolnshire Show

pencils on display at the Lincolnshire ShowJust got back from the Lincolnshire Show. It’s Tom Wood beera great day out with the family. I’ve got a lot to talk about but in the interest of getting a post out today I offer a short one with a wood based theme. The sticks in the header are actually biros – I thought it was a good photo and I bought one for my mate Jamie whose birthday party I am going to on Saturday.

The inset photo is of a pint of Tom Wood beer being pulled. Tom Wood is a local Lincolnshire brewery. Excellent stuff. They were also selling Piper’s crisps, another local product.

My diary is rammed tomorrow so look out for a post on tractors on Friday. You know it makes sense.

broadband End User

Leeks, Daffodils, and Lincolnshire Broadband – Happy St. David’s Day

a typical rural Lincolnshire scene - we have no time for the internet and other new fangled stuffI’m missing tricks here. Yesterday I came into the office with the intention of writing something highly entertaining yet informative around the subject of February 29th – leap day as it seems to have been labelled on Twitter. Instead RaspberryPi came along and hijacked the slot. Fair enough, though I did follow the Twitter deliberations of one female friend as she mulled out loud the prospect of proposing marriage to her partner. It didn’t happen. She is content with waiting another 4 years 🙂

Today is March 1st. St David’s Day or Dydd Gwyl Dewi Sant as we say in the principality. It is also a beautiful spring day though there are no daffodils out in the garden yet for me to have wantonly torn the heads off to wear into work. Also my wife didn’t like the idea of my nicking a leek – she has been tending to them with loving care all winter and they are destined for the table.

So here we are pinching and punching into March and I have no idea how to weave the fact into a technical blog post.

In other news yesterday