2020 winners follow up: Marc Skivington, Agri-tech Innovator of the Year

With farm safety climbing up the agenda, Aberdeenshire farmer Marc Skivington has come up with an innovative solution which can ultimately save lives. Abi Kay finds out more from the winner of last year’s Agritech Innovator of the Year Award.

With on-farm deaths and injuries remaining stubbornly high, Aberdeenshire mixed farmer Marc Skivington has created an innovative technological solution which he hopes can help avoid further tragedies.

Smart Farmer is a cloud-based software and mobile app tool which uses a traffic light system to help farmers run daily checks on machinery, with amendable lists; log usage hours; the ability to add photographs and descriptions of any issues and set automatic alerts when a service is due.

As well as helping keep employees safe and ensuring employers are meeting their obligations, the tool provides the practical benefit of cutting down on paperwork.

It was after 728-hectare (1,800-acre) Slainspark Farm, which Marc manages, was inspected by the Health and Safety Executive that he first came up with the
idea for Smart Farmer.

But the ability to log and download key information on farm machinery can also help during audits for assurance schemes, as he explains.

“When you are doing your farm audits for Red Tractor or Quality Meat Scotland and you are asked if you can prove a service maintenance plan for your tractor, you can just pull up this information, download it and show everything.

“Your machines are getting looked after better, because the people who are checking these machines every day are recording these checks.

“You can see who last used the machine too, so it is identifying who is breaking things on-farm and you are reducing downtime costs.”


Although Smart Farmer is now well on its way to becoming a household name, creating the tool was not an easy process. With too little of his own money to
fund the project, Marc turned to Scottish Enterprise and Aberdeenshire Council to secure £15,000.

Finding a developer he wanted to work with was the next challenge and, after being quoted £124,000 by an Edinburgh-based software company, he was left disheartened. But he eventually found his developer match in Aberdeen.

Marc says: “The developer had just finished building an app for an animal feed company when I met him. He knew exactly what I wanted and the relationship we developed was fantastic.”

his partnership is continuing to flourish, with plans in the pipeline for about 40 more features to be added to the tool.

Since winning the Agritech Innovator of the Year Award in 2020, Marc has supplemented Smart Farmer with two more features – the ability to add and edit risk assessments and a training requirement which proves employees know how to operate machinery safely.

He says: “I was quite guilty of starting somebody new on the Monday, giving them the health and safety policy and signing them up to Smart Farmer so they would have the risk assessments telling them to do daily checks, but not actually giving them any sort of training documents on how to operate a tractor safely.

“There was no proof of that. So I have created a load of generic training documents on how to operate a tractor, towing a trailer and all these things.

“If you have not completed any training on how to operate a tractor, Smart Farmer will not let you carry out the daily check until you have completed operating the tractor training document.

“Once you have done that, the farmer or the farm manager is made aware you have read and understood the operating a tractor training document and you can set it so it needs to be reviewed every two years.”


Two other upgrades which will automatically check on lone workers and alert machinery operators to hazards on-farm are also due to be added shortly.

These features will prompt contact with a machinery operator if their GPS location stays the same for a certain period of time, and warn employees of potential risks, such as overhead power cables.

There have been some issues, however, with getting approval for these updates from Apple.

Marc says: “Android seems to approve any updates a lot more efficiently than Apple. Apple continuously seems to reject them and there is not any explanation
as to why they have been rejected.

“The developer just gets a rejection note back and there is a fancy code which could cover a whole lot of things, and he has to go back and break it down.

“I have been waiting four weeks for Apple to approve the next phase of development, when Android said yes within 72 hours. That has been the biggest  challenge.”

But none of this has deterred Marc from pushing forward with other changes and he is now determined to make Smart Farmer a whole-farm management tool.

Plans are already underway to incorporate time sheets into the app, allowing employees to log their hours, which should cut down on massively burdensome farm administration.

Marc says: “People are screaming for time sheets at the moment. I have had four requests already.

“This will be the next update. We have 57 time sheets and it takes the girl in the office nearly two days just to sort out each department.

“We want to have a system where employees are logging their hours on the app and the portal behind it is splitting them into different departments.”

Moving outside of the human resources sphere, Marc also has high hopes Smart Farmer will help its users reduce their carbon footprint by tracking machine fuel use.

He says: “I have lots of ideas about how to utilise Smart Farmer. I still want to keep in mind safety, but we are also looking at how we can put trackers and
sensors on machines.

“You will be able to log when a machine goes in a certain field, so you will know how much fuel is getting used, when the wearing parts on the machine have been changed and exactly how many hectares it has done.

“We will be able to do something very clever then which could hopefully reduce our carbon footprint. I have lots of directions I want to take it in.”

All of this is on offer to farmers currently for the flat rate price of at £495 a year plus VAT.

So far, Marc is not having trouble in finding customers, with thousands of apps already in use, about 160 new subscribers over the past year and a high level of renewals.


But he feels his progress has been hampered by the Covid-19 restrictions, which put a stop to shows where he could exhibit.

Marc says: “The biggest challenge since developing the app is that there have been no shows. I was at LAMMA 2019, but I have not been able to go and market it and demonstrate it.

“If I had the shows last year, goodness knows where the numbers could be.”

Instead of promoting the tool through shows, Marc has been using a combination of social media, print advertising and word of mouth to market the product.

And winning the award last year helped to boost Smart Farmer’s profile, providing a big uplift in Twitter and Instagram followers and email inquiries.

Marc says: “When the name is recognised, I see that as a success. Seeing yourself getting noted in magazines or being voted the second best farm safety app by
Yellow Wellies seven months after launching, when you get things like that it really shows how far you have come.”

A word from the sponsor

ADAS is the UK’s largest independent agricultural and environmental consultancy. We offer a wide range of rural development services and are a leading provider of research and development in the UK.

With 14 rural office bases across England and Wales, we offer local knowledge combined with global expertise. ADAS is home to internationally renowned soil scientists, crop physiologists, agricultural researchers and rural business experts, who have been the backbone of our organisation for several decades.

Our services now extend into renewable energy, forestry, ecology, planning and even archaeology. Whether in the field, on a farmyard, in a glasshouse or a laboratory, we have continued to research, investigate, analyse, assess, support and drive sustainable innovation.

For the past 75 years, our goal has been to provide bespoke, innovative solutions for a more sustainable and profitable agricultural sector.

Today, we remain committed to helping farmers and growers achieve greater profits and better yields with less inputs and a smaller environmental footprint.

The Agritech Innovator of the Year Award recognises pioneering farmers who utilise technology and precision data to improve efficiency. This very much reflects the innovative projects we are involved in, such as INNO-VEG (working in partnership with previous winner Hummingbird Technologies), Agronomics and IPM Decisions.

We are looking forward to seeing some really exciting projects which will help shape our sector in the years to come and maybe spur the next agriculture  revolution.