Can generating gas and electricity be the solution to New Zealand dairy effluent management.

Executive Summary

This paper explores the options available to manage effluent within the New Zealand Dairy Industry.

It also clearly investigates why Anaerobic Digestion is not suitable at its current levels of technology to be an option for commercial dairy farms in New Zealand.

  • Only 20 percent of the available effluent is collected in the Cowshed
  • High costs of substrate such as Maize silage
  • Lack of time and skills to manage the running of an AD plant
  • Nutrient levels are still maintained using this system

Then it provides some practical, innovative solutions to manage the effluent.

Using 3 key options for integrated management

  • Bio Crude manufactured using Algae
  • Dung Beetles
  • Precision Farming technology

It also challenges those within the industry to support change, and take action to implement the above solutions for the benefit of all those within the industry.

Can Generating Gas and Electricity be the Solution to New Zealand Dairy Effluent Management. – Natasha King

Good to great extension: Influencing on farm change at pace and scale.

Executive Summary

Knowledge and skill alone does not result in practice change. Verbal persuasion, even well-articulated has low impact. Great extension is about a consistent focus on delivering to farmer needs that are self identified as well as those from gap analysis and doing it in a way that results in practice change.

Seventy percent of change programs fail because we assume people are ready to change. Understanding the stage a person is at on the change cycle helps target effective extension intervention which improves the probability of being successful.

To influence change, at pace and scale, requires a focus on changing behaviour, and to change behaviour we need to change the way people think. Most human behaviour is learnt from observing others. Through observation, one forms an idea of how new behaviours can be performed, and this coded information serves as a guide for future action. Practice change will occur when an individual believes they can be successful (self-efficacy).

Farmers learn best from other farmers and keeping farmers in the driving seat will increase participation and relevance of any extension activity, leading to more change on farm.

Identify barriers and then remove them before trying to change behaviour. Involving the farmers who need to change in the planning of the change initiative and the decision-making makes it easier to identify barriers and enables trust. Making general principles local through role modelling and or good story telling reduces barriers to change.

Breaking recommendations into small change steps helps to make success easy. Following up, and involving gatekeepers (decision makers) of the system are key triggers for change as restraining forces are reduced.

To support self-efficacy any change program requires some one on one and or group peer support as change is often stressful and confidence may be lacking.

Successful practice change begins and ends with a successful partnership. Therefore extension professionals will be more effective by building an ecosystem of partners.

The extension professionals’ toolkit needs a change model that guides extension to work systematically through the change process with farmers. It also needs an evaluation framework to measure effectiveness. One model is the See (belief’s), Do (behaviours), Get (results) Model. If a farmer is not happy about their results, extension can work with the farmer to review their beliefs which can then be challenged to change their behaviour to improve the results.

Recruiting extension professionals for head (intelligence), heart (passion) and tenure, helps to build trust and credibility with farmers which is important to influence change. Building capability is important in both hard skills (technical) and soft skills (understanding people and relationship management). Persistence is also needed as change happens over time (at least 3 years).

The recommendations outlined in this report operate as interdependent determinants in practice change. These recommendations will not only help extension professionals do their job effectively but also enable them to enjoy their work more while being effective at influencing change on farm.

Good to Great Extension: Influencing on farm change at pace and scale – Tafadzwa Manjala

Synergies between arable and dairy: With a focus on effluent and nutrients.

Executive Summary

Farming in New Zealand has changed dramatically in the last two decades with 283,700 hectares of land being converted to dairy between 1996 and 2008 (Land Use and Farming Intensity Report, 2013).

The New Zealand dairy system is unique in the respect that it is grass based with supplements and rations making up less than 25% of the diet, unlike other dairy systems throughout the world with comparable production figures, where the cattle are housed for at least a portion of the year and are fed a total mixed ration (TMR).

Milk production both per cow and per hectare, is also increasing (See Figure ) and  has resulted in demand for supplementary feeds grown outside the dairy farm gate. Much of this feed is sourced from the arable industry, whether that is from the supply of grains or from the production of winter forage crops.

Given the growth and intensification of agriculture in New Zealand, we are faced with the prospect of more environmental regulation as government seeks to ensure a sustainable future for the environment.

Grass based grazing systems have little opportunity for the capture of nutrients and manure from grazing animals, unlike the housed systems, where effluent is captured and spread onto land, at a time when there is less potential for runoff and  leaching.

Arable systems have historically used artificial fertilisers in order to maximise production, however there is the opportunity to utilise the potentially excess nutrients within the dairy systems. This may be by piping liquids from the dairy to the arable farms, but will require the land use types to share the same geographical area in order for the cost of infrastructure to be viable.

The wintering of dairy stock is set to undergo some changes in the near future with regard to land use capabilities and nutrient run-off and the leaching. The off farm wintering is a very integral part of the overall dairy system and allows production to be pushed beyond the capabilities of a self-contained unit. The system again, places pressure on the environment when the cows are fed forage crops in situ with no opportunity to contain nutrients and effluent.

When we look at other systems around the world, a recurring theme is indoor wintering, and the control of the effluent that it brings.  We are beginning to see some of these indoor wintering systems introduced in New Zealand, mostly on the dairy platform where there is the opportunity to milk later into the season and increasing milk production which offsets some the cost of infrastructure.

Implementing this system creates the potential for further nutrient overload within the dairy operation as more feed is introduced to the dairy platform; therefore it is only viable if the dairy operation is a self-contained unit.

If the dairy unit is not self-contained and is reliant on the arable farm as a source of feed over winter, the wintering barn or pad may need to be on the farm that the crop is grown in order to maintain the nutrient balance and reduce transport costs. This will however mean some fundamental changes in the cost structures that are currently in use are in order to ensure viability of both businesses and may require some transition period.

With respect to the opportunities for the arable industry to supply feeds better utilised by dairy cows, it appears there has been little work done in that field. The dairy industry in the US and the EU tend to focus on breeding feed efficiency into the animals and sourcing a range of products to formulate the diet required to enhance profitability.

Often products within the diet are by-products of other processes as opposed to a particular crop. This could be distillers grain from ethanol production, almond hulls, or even stale bread which can be sourced in the Netherlands and the UK at a cost cheaper than wheat. There is little scope individually for these crops to be tailored to a particular dairy diet, however when used in a blend, the mix can be adjusted to suit the requirements of the herd or in the individual cow.

The arable industry globally tends to be focused on breeding and agronomic management that allows for better water use efficiency, disease controls and nutrient deficiencies, and more recently the renewable fuels industry. This is wide-ranging and involves ethanol production, bio fuel production and feedstocks for anaerobic digestion. These are important for sustainability of the industry, but if we look at the feed industry there is little focus on the needs of the consumer.

Historically quality testing of feed grains has been related to the pig and poultry industries rather than the dairy industry. This differs from maize silage and other forages which have been selected for bovine animals.

The New Zealand arable industry is particularly innovative and adaptive to change and is well placed to participate in the dairy value chain and to assist with sustainable environmental outcomes.


Synergies between arable and dairy: With a focus on effluent and nutrients – Steve Wilkins

Harnessing social media in agriculture.

Executive Summary

The power of the 21st century is now literally in our hands. We have never before had such a powerful tool to connect with millions of people from the comfort of our own home and all around the world it is changing the way business is done. Social media has given the power to the voice of the average Joe, and whilst that may come with its challenges, the opportunities are there for the taking, especially when it comes to telling the story of New Zealand agriculture.

Social media is now a mainstream form of communication around the world, and continues to grow in popularity with the increase in the number of smartphones, and the ease of use whilst on the go. There are now 1.5 billion users of social networking platforms in the world and other industries have embraced these platforms in business and consumer engagement, however it has not been widely accepted in agriculture. Limited research available shows that there are increasing trends in farmer and agribusiness uptake in social media as the popularity of smartphones increase.

The purpose of this report was to assess the value social media could have for the New Zealand agricultural industry to propel us into the 21st century. By meeting a wide range of farmers, agribusinesses and professionals around the world, particularly in the UK & USA, I discovered four main themes of value for the industry.

The value of social media for the agricultural industry lies in the value of social capital. It brings the farmer, industry and consumer closer together so that there is more transparency, engagement, trust and authenticity in the supply chain. Financial returns are often an indirect result of improved social capital, however this is difficult to measure.

The four key areas of value are:

1. Networking (Farmer – Farmer) via social media platforms (such as Twitter) can:

  • Reduce social isolation for farmers
  • Enable farmers & agribusinesses to meet and network with other farmers, agribusinesses and consumers domestically and globally
  • Enable interaction directly with people of influence
  • Provide you with a wealth of knowledge and ideas from a range of sources
  • The AgChat model (Twitter online discussion group), which is widely used in US A, UK, Australia & Ireland, is a great concept for facilitating discussions of industry issues between farmers and agribusinesses.

2. Industry Knowledge, Extension & Marketing (Farmer – Agricultural Industry)

  • Marketing using social platforms can enable agribusinesses to connect with a growing farming demographic online by providing content that is of value.
  • Lobbying on social media brings together a collective voice to bring about action and change by interacting with people of influence and power directly. Facilitating large groups of people and discussion around an issue of importance is made easier using these platforms. Examples of this are:
    • UK #sosdairy campaign in which Twitter was used to coordinate protest efforts and spread the message to the public about what farmers were actually getting paid
    • In Australia, the ban on live export brought about a growing number of farmers engaging in social media to lobby to politicians & #supportliveex
  • Extension and knowledge transfer of agricultural practices may reach a wider audience by using social media tools

3. Consumer Engagement (Farmer/Industry – Consumer)

  • Connecting and engaging with consumers is becoming more important as our consumers increasingly are using social platforms to make purchasing decisions. Opportunity for producers of food and fibre to use social media as a tool as part of their marketing toolbox.
  • Social Media enables farmers to be part of the conversation surrounding controversial and emotional issues to do with farming practices E.g. animal welfare, genetic modification and environmental issues. People will be talking about our industry whether we are involved or not.
  • Allows farmers and the agricultural industry to better understand our consumers needs and viewpoints
  • Helps build trust by being transparent and authentic

4. Crisis communication

  • Communication strategies for the agricultural industry should include social media by using two – way communication with authentic, efficient and transparent voices.
  • Learning’s from the Fonterra botulism case in 2013 highlight the need for effective communication on social media in the agricultural industry.

In all respects it has been acknowledged that social media is not a silver bullet for every communication challenge that the industry has in respects to crisis communication, marketing, lobbying and networking however it does add a lot of value in conjunction with traditional methods.

My recommendations for getting the best value from social media and the above findings:

  • More industry training for farmers and agribusinesses is required so that farmers and agribusinesses understand the capabilities of the tools better.
  • Formation of AgChatNZ Twitter discussion forum (currently in the process of this with other industry members).
  • Farmers should be utilised more in social media marketing for our produce internationally as they are the human face in the supply chain, which provides authenticity and trust.

We have the opportunity to bring the world to our farm gate and connect to our consumers with authenticity and transparency. We have the responsibility to tell our story to protect our industry, and now we have the power to as well.

“It is not the strongest that survive, nor the most intelligent; but the ones that are most responsive to change” – Charles Darwin

Harnessing Social Media in Agriculture – Sophie Stanley

Supporting entrepreneurship in New Zealand agriculture.

Executive Summary

New Zealand has very high rates of entrepreneurial activity by international standards, but this has not translated into the expected numbers of large and high growth businesses. The result is significant loss of opportunities for growth. This phenomenon has been attributed to cultural influences (primarily lack of aspiration) and a possible lack of finance at a transitional stage in business development. Agriculture is not immune to this problem, as it is not performing to its potential in a number of areas. The goal of this study was to find companies or industry sectors in other countries that had experienced growth, identify factors that they had found helpful during the process and then relate those experiences back to the situation in New Zealand. 

Three themes have emerged. They are firstly the use of alternative sources of funding, secondly the value of networks and mentoring and lastly the potential of new strategic tools such as business model generation. These represent effective responses to problems often associated with growing businesses: the need for finance, the need for information, confidence and role models and the need to continue the process of innovation over the long-term. These factors were reported as critical for success and/or may also relate to commonly identified problems here in New Zealand.

As regards alternative sources of capital, crowdfunding was identified as a tool with potential value for agriculture. This form of finance involves large numbers of people who each invest a small amount of money in a business, as opposed to the more traditional methods, which depend on smaller numbers of investors providing large sums. A universal element of crowdfunding is the use of internet technology, to reach many potential investors cheaply and easily. This and other characteristics make crowdfunding particularly suited to the needs of small and medium-sized businesses, which currently make up the bulk of the New Zealand economy. Crowdfunding has its roots in the United States during the 1990s, adopted primarily by the creative and technological sectors. It has now become a significant source of funding, with US$2.7 billion invested in 2012. This figure is forecast to top US$5 billion for the first time in 2013. Governments in Italy and the US have passed legislation to facilitate the practice, seeing it as a valuable aid to economic development. New Zealand has now also passed laws designed to encourage crowdfunding, which will be implemented in April 2014. 

Until now, the primary sector has had limited involvement with crowdfunding, but this is beginning to change. Agribusinesses in Europe and the US are now taking advantage of the opportunities that it provides. Limited access to sources of ongoing investment remains a problem for business in this country. This is forecast to worsen in the primary sector, with a future finance gap of $210 billion predicted for agriculture between now and the year 2050. Therefore, despite some (relatively minor) risks associated with it, crowdfunding may prove a helpful tool to remove some of the barriers to entrepreneurial growth in New Zealand.

Another theme that emerged from case studies was the use of networks and mentoring. Networks have long been known to support business performance and are considered particularly important for their role in enabling the flow of information, that core building block of innovation. However, they often remain under-utilised. New Zealand’s failure to grow large and high growth businesses from a base of early innovation has been attributed for the most part to culture. Innovation is also a largely psychological process, so measures designed to improve entrepreneurship practices must engage the minds of those involved. As demonstrated by the case studies, one of the most effective ways to do this is through networks. 

Some of the characteristics of effective networks were identified as follows :

  • A successful network speaks to the identity of the participants. The best examples become participant-led, allowing them to take ownership of the process.
  • A successful network is also topical and changes with the feedback of the network members. It must be based on a genuine need. Over time, as issues and demands change, the network will alter. At some point, it may look quite different to what it was in the beginning, with different participants, focus and even function. This is to be expected and is not a failure.
  • Different forms of network may preform different functions, so the goal of the network determines in part the form that it should take. For example, to promote radical innovation, global networking should be encouraged. To foster better links across the value chain, an annual meeting of all interested parties in a sector has been shown to be very effective. If the goal is to increase the performance of grassroots businesses, while they may benefit from a large annual gathering, they derive greatest value from regular local meetings and peer mentoring.
  • Finally, networks are vital to building and maintaining the performance of any sector and should be actively fostered at all levels.

The third theme involves the use of a strategic tool known as business model generation. The core assumption behind this technique is the requirement for continuously re-inventing your business model, in order to preserve and strengthen your competitive position. The reasoning behind this is as follows.

A gradual decline in rates of innovation (and subsequently performance) is perhaps the single biggest risk to mature businesses. It is now almost universally recognised that innovation must be ongoing and companies must be preparing to reinvent themselves, even when times are good and they are under no immediate pressure to do so. In this way, they protect their competitive position and ensure the survival and growth of the business in the long run. 

Simple as this sounds, it has proved remarkably difficult to achieve. In an effort to provide tools to help the process, a number of strategic approaches have been explored, of which business model generation has proved an effective example. 

Business model generation is based on a number of other assumptions that have their roots in innovation theory. These include :

  • The need to look holistically at the entire system of doing business and its context. A description of the business model provides this.
  • As people process visual information faster than any other kind, business models are best described graphically. No one person is in possession of all the pieces of the business model. Therefore, multi-disciplinary teams are required to achieve the process of describing current and future models.
  • The current business model must be outlined, before any further work can be done, such as assessing weaknesses and strengths, comparing your model to that of competitors or creating new and innovative business models.

The process of business model generation, its relationship to related theories and role in promoting innovation and growth are described. Although it has been successfully adopted by some of the world’s most innovative companies, it remains an emerging field in agriculture. As earlier outlined, New Zealand has difficulty in translating high levels of innovation and early entrepreneurship into large and high growth businesses. Once larger businesses appear, continuous innovation is widely recognised as necessary to ensure survival and encourage further growth. Some commentators have also described agriculture in New Zealand (dairy excepted) as showing many of the signs of a mature industry, with slowing productivity and use of longstanding business models. By aiding the production of novel and more competitive ways of doing business, business model generation has resulted in increased growth and sustained performance in companies that implement the process. Therefore, it may be of significant value if applied more widely in New Zealand agriculture.

To conclude, we have an opportunity to grow the primary sector in this country, building on our already high level of early stage entrepreneurship and innovation. The message of this report is that we need to create the right environment for agribusiness to maximise this potential. We already have the most difficult element in place – innovation. Now we need to correct the weaknesses in our innovation system. One way we can do this is by encouraging use of new tools in finance and strategy and by taking advantage of the benefits of networking. This will strengthen our industry, ahead of what could be an extremely exciting and rewarding period for agriculture.

Supporting entrepreneurship in New Zealand agriculture. – Lisa Harper