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New technologies in arable farming.

Executive Summary

Agriculture’s importance in the world is growing. In 1988 New Zealand agriculture was infamously described by David Lange, the then leader of the Labour party as “a sunset industry”. He believed New Zealand’s reliance on agriculture was diminishing and the country should now be focusing on manufacturing and tourism. 25 years on agriculture is as important to New Zealand’s economy as ever. Today agriculture is seen as an industry of the future with the outlook for farming never as bright.

Every day there are more people on our planet than the day before. Demographers tell us that the planet is gaining around 160,000 extra people every day. With global starvation already higher than it has ever been, especially in the developing world, pressure on agriculture to lift production and fill this food shortage will continue to increase.

Where will this additional food come from?

There will be small gains made from better food distribution, improving transport networks and by minimising the enormous wastage from paddock to plate but the greatest increases in available food must come from increasing production on farm. Farmers’ ability to keep lifting yields at the same rate using conventional farming methods is diminishing, so any further gains will involve the capacity to adapt and adopt new technologies. These new technologies, whether they are precision agriculture, genetically modifying crops or something else entirely, will certainly play a part in achieving the additional production that is needed.

New Zealand is a country that can benefit from this increased global demand for food. With an economy that is more reliant on agricultural production than most, increasing agricultural exports would have direct benefits to the wealth of our country. New Zealand has many natural advantages, from its fertile soils and temperate climate, to its established production systems and recognised quality assurance programs, creating huge opportunities for agriculture throughout the country. As an already high yield producer, New Zealand’s gains will come from looking at fresh ways to improve production and adopting new technologies rather than any modest variations to our existing farming systems.

Two of these technologies, Genetic Modification (GM) of crops and Precision Agriculture are both likely to play a big part in New Zealand’s agricultural future.

Due to rapid advances in equipment, software and expertise, the Precision Agriculture industry will continue to progress and evolve helped by a greater uptake from farmers.  The ever increasing environmental pressure now on farming means the ability to accurately apply, record and map any inputs will become more important than ever. The real benefits of precision agriculture are still ahead of us.

While the advantages of precision agriculture are generally understood and accepted, the benefits of the genetic modification of crops are less so. Critics of GM food products insist that they are unsafe, untested, unregulated and unnecessary. But the facts are starting to show otherwise. We are starting to consistently see many benefits including new varieties of crops like wheat or maize with resistance to different pests and diseases.

This in turn is leading to lower pesticide use and higher yields. It is often quoted that in North America there has been over two trillion servings of food that contain GM ingredients without any cases of documented harm. Is this enough? How long will it take before the science is seen to be proven?

Currently New Zealand is practically free of any Genetic Modification due to the very strict regulations around release. But for GM to be a useful tool for the future, research has to start now. This research is critical to New Zealand’s future.

Globally public attitudes towards GM may be softening but the New Zealand consumer still might not be quite ready for GM technology. New Zealand farmers will be commercially growing genetically modified plants one day, but not yet. While there is growing interest from producers and consumers, there still needs to be more information on the benefits and risks so the purchaser is able to make an informed decision.

Education is the key, moving people away from the extremes to more middle ground. There is also a need to respect the views of people who take a contrary view and respect people’s right to choose.

But Genetic Modification is a powerful tool if used well which may bring many benefits to future generations. Can New Zealand agriculture afford to turn its back on this?

At the very least this is a debate worth having.

New Technologies in Arable Farming – Michael tayler

Understanding the drivers for creation and adoption of Innovation by farmers; on and off farm.

Executive Summary

The ability of a business to compete in an ever changing world is linked into its ability to identify and adopt innovations.  Introducing new ideas, alternate systems and different technologies enable a business to change and meet the market; it maintains competitiveness and relevance in an ever changing world.

A major challenge facing agriculture globally and within New Zealand, is the increasing more complex farm business environment.  Price volatility, climate change and shifting societal expectations on food producers are bringing greater demands on the farmers of today, and those of tomorrow.  The ability and willingness of farmers to explore new ideas and adopt innovation will play a significant factor in the success of farming in the future.

Identifying and adopting innovation is a complex and personal process, and improving our understanding of innovation adoption will aid in lifting the performance of farmers and farm business.

An individual’s upbrining, their educational achievement and their participation in the world around them, establishes their willingness or openness to innovate.   Whereas the adoption of that innovation is influenced by an individuals own aspirations and goals and under-pinning the personal driver, is the compulsion to improve an individuals’ place in life.  Interacting with these personal drivers are external factors which also influence the willingness to innovate.  These factors disrupt the status quo and bring about a change which requires a response from the individual.

An innovation needs a supportive environment to flourish.  Leveraging off the personal drivers and factors increases the likelyhood of the innovation to be adopted, and building a supportive environment increases prospect of the innovation becoming normalised into the business.

NZ’s future agricultural success lies in a skilled workforce implementing innovation along the value chain.  NZ agriculture needs a workforce that challenges the status quo and looks for creative solutions.  Building these skills is the repsonsibility of all members of the agricultural industry.  The industry must acknowledge the importantce of formal education and structured informal development, and build a culture of learning and discovery.  This starts with our young people .

The willingness to innovate is the beginning of the innovation process, and the full value of the innovation needs to be demonstrated in technology transfer and the extension processes.  Within these systems recognotion of drivers other than financial drivers need to be accounted for, and innovation ‘hot spots’ identified.

NZ would do well to consider structured innovation development for farmers through processes like Innovation Incubators; structured creative exploration groups with supported discovery and inplementation of innivation. Facilitated creative exploration within a supportive network would add significant value to the business of agriculture, and establish a blueprint for innovation discovery and adoption within the farm gate.

By building our people and equipping them for a changing world, NZ will be well positioned to captialise on the challenges of the future. The heritage of resourcefulness and creative problem solving is embedded in the NZ farmer’s psyche, and building skills and competencies to support this will strengthen our future and consolidate our position as producers of high quality, safe and secure food.

Understanding the drivers for creation and adoption of Innovation by farmers; on and off farm – Richard Fitzgerald

“Hello New Zealand wool: this is the future speaking…”

Executive Summary

Purpose of report

To explore a vision for grower representation in the New Zealand wool value chain.

Background

Wool was once New Zealand’s most valuable export product – it was to our economy what dairying is today. Currently, however, the New Zealand wool industry is weak and fragmented to the point of being dysfunctional. This is not a judgement of the individual businesses involved, but rather a symptom of the commoditization of a product along a convoluted supply chain.

In 2009 New Zealand sheep farmers voted, by a slim margin, to discontinue the wool levy paid to Meat and Wool New Zealand.

Four years on it has been established that wool growers are now ‘under-represented’ in a number of areas.

This representation – what works, what doesn’t and what would it look like for New Zealand wool growers – is the focus of this report.

Key Factors for Success

Successful industry representation has several defining features.

  • The first is elected representatives simply doing what they commit to do.
  • Great industry representation is PROACTIVE.
  • Elected representatives are approachable and respectful of their industry members.

When all these factors combine, the result is an overwhelming sense of positivity. While all the participants are fully cognisant of the issues and challenges facing the industry, they are confident that everyone is pulling in the same direction. In the case of New Zealand wool, the following must also apply:

  • Grower, Government, key decision-makers, media and community acceptance of the true value of the New Zealand wool industry.
  • Combined grower and Government funding.
  • Awareness and adoption of research outcomes.
  • A cohesive and progressive wool industry throughout the value chain.
  • Enhanced awareness and thus improved global market position for woolen textiles – with an emphasis on New Zealand wools.
  • Financially and environmentally sustainable land use.

Recommendation

  • New Zealand wool growers need to be focusing forward as an industry – to be looking to realign the value chain that begins with us, the producers.
  • Collective producer investment in industry representation and R&D provides cohesion and in turn, strength to growers.

Proposal

  • Levy set at an initial 0.03c per kilogram from growers at first point of sale.
  • Matched by Government investment to make up a total 0.06c per kilogram of greasy wool sold.
  • Based on figures estimated by the Beef + Lamb Economic Service the total greasy wool sales for this year (2012/ 2013) will be 172,600 tonnes
  • Doing the basic maths results in a total Wool Levy income of $10,356,000 per annum.

Allocation
There are several factors that must be built into this programme.

  • Equivalent of Government contribution must be allocated to Innovation, Research and Development to avoid any criticism of industry protection (World Trade Organization requirements).
  • There must be surety around funding for the Campaign for Wool.
  • A small, effective team of dedicated people will be pivotal in the success of this programme.

“Hello New Zealand Wool – This Is The Future Speaking…” – Sandra Faulkner