Monday, February 26, 2024

 Tech-savvy young farmers lead the charge

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As tech grows and its use becomes integrated into all farm systems there will be potential to customise.
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By Mark Sheridan, national sales manager for Gallagher Animal Management in NZ

As New Zealand farmers continue to navigate economic struggles, inflationary pressures and the ever-looming unpredictability of our weather patterns, technology to drive on-farm efficiency will chart our industry’s future course.

The agricultural sector has often been characterised as resistant to change with the average age of our farmers about 67. Many still maintain they are not technologically savvy, despite having more technology in their dairy sheds and tractors than ever before. 

There is also a generational shift happening. As the reins are handed over, our young farmers are emerging through the ranks as the torchbearers of technological change.

Fluctuating milk prices, inflation on inputs and the looming spectre of production downturns have created a complex landscape, but the eagerness of the next generation to embrace and harness technology for on-farm efficiency can help us navigate these challenges.

They are the i-generation, armed with smartphones and tech-savvy mindsets. They are stepping into pivotal roles on the farm that will shape the future direction of our industry driving efficiency, sustainability, and premium profit.

The integration of technology to streamline on-farm operations is seeing data-driven decision-making tools coming to the fore, enabling farmers to make informed decisions for the long term.

While some older farmers may still rely on experience and intuition, the younger generation recognises the power of data in making informed decisions. 

From satellite water monitoring systems that effectively manage our most precious resource to digital weighing scales and EID tracking systems that accurately measure production productivity to the kilogram, helping farmers select the best animals at the optimum time for breeding, culling or selling. And this is all harnessed in the cloud, sent to farmers’ phones in their pockets for decision making on the go. 

Data-driven decision-making is becoming a cornerstone of modern farming practices. Weigh scales now do more than just weigh. Setting up a session based on weight, animals can be automatically drafted based on predetermined settings.

This real-time data collection and analysis not only streamlines day-to-day operations but also enables farmers to plan. For instance, accurately predicting the weight gain of livestock helps in scheduling transportation to the works efficiently, addressing challenges related to limited space at processing plants.

Beyond weigh scales, technology is making waves in water management. In regions expecting dry summers, water becomes an even more precious commodity. The ability to monitor water levels remotely through satellite technology ensures that farmers can proactively manage their water resources.

Eventually we may be able to even integrate weather forecasting into these systems. With the forecast of El Niño impacting weather patterns, farmers equipped with technology can anticipate challenges and adjust their strategies accordingly. This not only aids in water management but also influences decisions related to crop cultivation and livestock care.

As tech grows and its use becomes integrated into all farm systems there will be potential to customise. Unlike the traditional model of presenting a fixed product to farmers, the customisation approach will allow farmers to tailor solutions to their unique requirements.

This evolution signifies a departure from the conventional mindset of “this is our solution, make it work”. Instead, farmers will be empowered to contribute to the design of their technological tools, ensuring that the technology aligns seamlessly with their existing systems and processes. This shift towards customisation has the potential to revolutionise the way farmers interact with technology, making it even more accessible and user-friendly.

The younger demographic, accustomed to smartphones and digital tools, brings a fresh perspective to the agricultural landscape. This tech-savvy mindset positions them as catalysts for change, driving the industry towards greater efficiency and sustainability.

The key to widespread adoption lies in showcasing the practical advantages of the technology that are available, dispelling the myth that it is exclusively for the tech-savvy.

As the torch passes from one generation to the next, the narrative of agriculture is being rewritten. The i-generation of farmers are not only adept at using technology, but they are also keen on pushing the boundaries of what’s possible. They are not merely inheritors of the land but stewards of a digital frontier that will drive the agricultural sector toward a more sustainable and tech-driven future.

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