Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Group gets precise about technology

Precision agriculture is a fast-growing area in New Zealand. While not new to NZ farmers, keeping pace with new technology has been identified as the key challenge. The Precision Agriculture Association of New Zealand (PAANZ), with its focus on advancing precision agriculture and its technology for sustainable growth in NZ, was rolled out last week. PAANZ was established in late 2012 by a group of interested farmers, researchers, industry representatives and companies to help the community get better access and understanding of what is happening in precision agriculture in NZ and internationally.

A one-day workshop and field day in Methven officially launched PAANZ before 180 participants from across the country.

Organisers were overwhelmed by the response to the event, having anticipated a turnout of about 80. Instead they turned away applications on the eve of the workshop.   

The event included farmers, researchers, commercial companies, regional councils, primary industry organisations and rural professionals. Its focus was on increasing the knowledge of precision agriculture technology in land-based primary production systems, in particular irrigation and nutrient management.

Almost every month there were new applications in precision agriculture that could be of interest to NZ farmers. Keeping pace with this new technology was not easy, but some help was near, PAANZ interim chairman Peter Barrowclough told the attendees.

“With this event, and more to follow, PAANZ recognises the growing interest to understand the scope of activities being undertaken by various organisations and individuals in the area of precision agriculture,” Barrowclough said.

“These technologies are crucial for NZ to achieve its growth objectives and maintain international competitiveness.”

The morning workshop featured presentations from a range of speakers, followed by an afternoon in the field hosted by Ballance Farm Environment Awards Canterbury supreme winners Craige and Roz MacKenzie at their Greenvale Pastures property, where participants were able to get up close with some of the technology.

“This PAANZ event takes place in a region where farmers are involved in a range of interesting precision-agriculture applications, such as soil mapping, precision irrigation and variable-rate nitrogen fertilisation.”

Precision agriculture was about the right input in the right place in the right amount, at the right time and in the right way, Barrowclough said. It relied on new technology such as electronic identification, GPS, information technology, geospatial and bio-response tools to make that possible. It enabled farmers to optimise land and primary production management by acting on the variability measured using these types of technology.

“We need to maintain our international competitiveness and retain our global reputation for innovation and environmentally sound production systems and precision agriculture assists us with achieving this,” Barrowclough said.

Environment Canterbury deputy chairman David Caygill presented the opening perspective. He said while NZ had a reputation as one of the best food producers in the world it was not exempt from needing to use limited resources better.

“We need to work together to do better, not because we are doing badly but because we need to go on doing things better,” Caygill said.

“Precision agriculture is exciting and positive towards how we live sustainably in the future and how we meet objectives and achieve the ongoing challenges as food producers.”

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