Preparing NZ for shift to digital agriculture

AgResearch is entering into a major programme to prepare New Zealand for the new era of digital agriculture.

The programme will identify the barriers to taking up new digital technologies on and off the farm, and will develop a technology roadmap to support the industry’s transition.

Many farmers are already using technologies such as sensors on their farms connected to their mobile phones or devices. However there is enormous potential for uptake of exciting new tools, alongside digital platforms that can bring together and analyse large amounts of data from different sources across the farm to guide decision-making.

“There are huge gains on offer from digital agriculture in terms of productivity, the environments we farm in, and pressures on farmers,” says AgResearch Research Director Greg Murison.

“It’s crucial that New Zealand – as an agricultural nation and exporter – stays ahead of the game. We want to support the industries as best we can to do that. We believe our programme will be among the first of its kind where a system-wide analysis of digital agriculture has been undertaken in New Zealand.”

“There’s a lot of smart people and companies developing these new digital tools for farmers. Our role is looking at the big picture of adoption across New Zealand, and how best to measure and interpret the data essential to the operation of these tools. We are already collecting data from the likes of our Tokanui research farm, where for example we are digitally tracking the movements and behaviour of the cows.”

“We are also focused on the testing and trialling of new technologies that become available – to see how they can be integrated into New Zealand farming systems, and what value they can bring for our farmers. We have recently partnered with Australian firm Agersens to trial its new virtual fencing technology in New Zealand. This technology uses collars on the livestock that enable farmers to restrict, move and monitor their animals – from anywhere and anytime – via an app.”

A component of digital agriculture is precision agriculture, where variability of crops is monitored, measured and responded to with the purpose of optimising returns and preserving resources. The International Tri-Conference for Precision Agriculture in 2017 will be held in Hamilton from October 16-18. Visit www.precisionagriculture.org.nz for more information.