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Future farming: How technology can give NZ farms a competitive advantage

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Drone use is only one aspect of future farm technology. Photo / Pexels,


It is an exciting time for robot and drone-based technology use on farms, fifth-generation farmer Stu Taylor says.

He is the general manager of Craigmore Sustainables, which manages more than 25,000ha of farming, forestry, and horticultural properties.

The company oversees several social, educational and environmental innovations, including two scholarship programmes and devices for animal monitoring and methane reduction.

Taylor told RNZ’s Afternoons he has always been passionate about the future of the industry.

“It’s a really interesting space, as different generations and technologies and techniques come together over the next 10 years,and if we lay that over with what’s expanding with AI and just how farmers will interact with that information … and working in synergy with that technology to really create a high-performance farm, based on what New Zealand’s great at — which is growing pasture.”

Work was being done to create cameras for dairy farms that would fly around a farm to measure the grass growth daily.

Another type of camera can be used to measure the nutrient and moisture content of pastures.

“So you get this visual data from drones, and also we’ve had ground-based robots out on farms already.

“They’re working on robots that identify weeds and specifically spray weeds and pasture, so that’s cutting down the risk for an individual to be exposed to spray and also being really accurate.”

Taylor had already started to trial future farm technologies.

He has been working with Lincoln University and Ravensdown, which produces an eco pond system — an iron sulphate that is mixed with effluent as it goes from the cow shed into the holding pond.

“That stops methane being released from that effluent. That’s about 4 per cent … per farm of our greenhouse gas equivalent effect.”

Kowbucha was a trial Craigmore Sustainables was doing with Fonterra — a biostimulant that reduces methane from the animals for at least the first two years of its life, or about 20 per cent per animal.

“And then of course we’re looking at farm efficiency, being a better farmer also reduces your effects on greenhouse gases.”

New Zealand could have a competitive advantage to be the closest to net zero dairy in the world, he said.

“I still believe farming’s the greatest job, greatest industry in the world and what’s happening in New Zealand is really positive change as we listen to our customers around the world, adapt to what they need …”


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