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Southern style tech and innovation

Southern style tech and innovation

I had the opportunity to be invited down to Gore recently to attend Thriving Southland’s AgriTech and Innovation Day.

The event  bought together over 300 farmers and a stack of exhibitors to learn about tools and ideas to help farmers keep moving their businesses forward or inspire some fresh thinking by seeing some innovative tech in action and hearing from people at the cutting edge or leading in their respective fields.

I was most interested to hear from Mike Casey aka The Electric Orchardist who is on a mission to make his Cromwell cherry orchard fully electric, among a few other farm level innovations.

Unfortunately, he had to do his presentation via zoom as his flight was cancelled. However, it was really interesting to delve into the economics of his farm and how going electric was now proving itself to be a viable reality, particularly when it came to locking in some certainty of future energy costs and resilience by not being as reliant on the National grid or fossil fuels to operate.

Leading on from what’s happening on their own farm Mike is part of a group called Rewiring Aotearoa, that is providing some great leadership and advocacy to policy makers that will hopefully help unlock new earning potential for farmers who might be in a position to export some surplus energy into the grid and profit from peak demands when spot pricing is high.

As Mike pointed out there are a few barriers that could be easily broken down so anyone exporting to the grid is paid properly when they do, or even open up opportunities for community sharing of power, which would also give rural areas greater energy resilience while also driving down the cost of energy to consumers. The big take away though was the point Mike makes is that on farm energy generation could meet the projected increased demand for New Zealand basically without having to invest any more money into poles or wires which is estimated to be over $8000 per household if we carry on down the path of large scale power stations many miles from where power is consumed.

Food for thought!

Between showers of cold Southern rain there were some experienced drone operators there demonstrating the capabilities of the latest Agricultural machines, quite a few large options for spraying & spreading and along with smaller drones for photography, surveying and the appealing ‘barking’ drone for mustering livestock that is about the same price as a half decent Huntaway!

The operators were really good to talk to about their operational practicalities and limitations while they showed them flying.

As someone that uses a pretty common consumer drone around the farm, it was really thought provoking as to what might be possible in the near future.

Following on after a great lunch was a panel discussion on GMO’s that was quite timely given there’s legislation being drafted currently to liberalise them here in New Zealand. I was hoping to hear and report on some reasoning as to why it will be of benefit to Farmers and our Country, but didn’t come away convinced the opportunities will make farming any easier or most importantly vastly more profitable behind the farm gate.

To wrap up the day a Farmer panel chaired by Kate Scott and consisting of myself, Corrigan Sowman and James Goodwin talked about the key drivers of the how’s and why’s we all look for with the technology we choose to utilise in our lives and businesses, the common theme was making it work for us to achieve better life balance for our families and to help us progress things like farm succession by continuing to innovate and stay viable.

I can’t congratulate the Thriving Southland team for putting on such a great event, I highly recommend keeping an eye on their website and socials as they publish content from the day and showcase all the other cool things they have going on.

by Duncan Humm, NZ Farming