Rural round-up

August 19, 2013

Growing good apps to protect crops:

Smartphones that respond to signals from plants? Laptops that co-ordinate irrigation at dozens of vineyards? Remote weather stations programmed to text frost alerts?

Many commercial growers are using laptops, tablets or smartphones to keep costs down and production up. Home gardeners too, if they can afford it.

Apps may get more attention but they’re small potatoes compared with the software and online programs already at work or being tested for horticultural use. Simply scanning a monitor or applying a few keystrokes can save water and fuel, redirect a labour force or protect a crop. . .

New role fulfils rural passion – Sally Rae:

Kim Reilly recalls how she was a ”ridiculous tomboy”, growing up in a farming family on the Taieri Plains, – so it was no surprise that she pursued a career in the rural sector.

Dunedin-based Mrs Reilly (41), a senior policy adviser for Federated Farmers, has taken over from Matt Harcombe as regional policy manager South Island, following his move to the Ministry for Primary Industries.

Working for the rural lobby organisation provided her with the challenge of utilising her tertiary qualifications, while also maintaining her passion for the rural lifestyle and a firm belief in the importance of farming. . .

Unmanned aerial vehicle monitors river pollution – Laura Macdonald:

A Wairarapa farmer’s developing an unmanned aerial vehicle that can be programmed to fly remotely to take video of the state of our rivers.

It’s being tested with the help of Victoria University in the hope it’ll be used by regional councils trying to get to grips with the problem of polluted waterways.

An unmanned aerial vehicle is the last tool in the effort to monitor New Zealand’s fresh water. It’s being test flown in the Wairarapa over the Muir family farm.

“We don’t actually see a lot of what is going on in the back country of New Zealand, and with this we can actually see it,” says farmer James Muir. . .

Making money on dairy futures – post botulism – Michael Field:

Fonterra’s botulism scare may have scared people off buying milk powder and knocked New Zealand’s international trade, but it may have helped financial traders making money off it.

Two years ago, the New Zealand stock exchange launched a futures trading market for milk powder.

NZX Dairy Futures notched up a record trading month last month, and this week – just as Fonterra executive Gary Romano resigned over the botulism scandal – it had a record trading day. . . .

Bold dairy comeback - Murray Robertson:

DAIRY farming will make a big comeback to the Gisborne-East Coast district if a bold new move by landowner partners in the new Ata Milk brand comes to fruition.

The man spearheading the Ata Milk concept, Dr Hugh Jellie, said it’s about “taking the region back to the future”.

He has been working on the project for 10 years.

Dr Jellie and his partner Sheryl Andersen moved to Gisborne from the Bay of Plenty six months ago.

“To get this community project off the ground, it’s important to be part of the community.” . . .

Wineries suffer further damage from latest quake:

Marlborough wineries have suffered more losses and damage from Friday’s magnitude 6.6 earthquake than they did from the 21 July event.

Wine Marlborough general manager Marcus Pickens says a number of wineries in the region closed after the big quake struck on Friday afternoon and structural engineers will be assessing the damage during the week.

He says there has probably been some wine loss, although how much is not really known at this stage.

“I think a number of the tanks, the way they behave would have spilt wine out the top … and those wine losses are financial losses as well.” . . .

Science award winner values time at Invermay - Sally Rae:

George Davis, who spent decades working at Invermay, has been acknowledged by the sheep industry for his contribution to sheep industry science.

Now retired, Dr Davis received the Silver Fern Farms sheep industry science award at the second annual Beef and Lamb New Zealand sheep industry awards in Invercargill last week.

It was both a very nice occasion and a nice surprise to receive the award and it was also special to be recognised by the industry, Dr Davis said.

The award acknowledged his contribution to New Zealand’s significant international profile in sheep genomics research. . .

What is a new potato? New guidelines issued:

A complaint to trading standards officers in Scotland has led to an industry body issuing a new description of what constitutes a “new potato”.

South Ayrshire Council was asked to investigate whether new potatoes were stored for long periods before sale.

It found that in some cases newly-harvested potatoes were stored for up to seven months before being sold.

The Potato Council has now drawn up an industry standard definition after the council raised its concerns.

The traditional description of a new potato is that it has been specially grown and harvested early, with a thin skin or one you can rub off with a finger. . .


Rural round-up

July 22, 2013

‘Real people’ contact informs policy - Sally Rae:

Representing the farming community has been a ”privilege” for Matt Harcombe.

Mr Harcombe is leaving Federated Farmers, after 12 years working for the rural lobby organisation, to join the Ministry for Primary Industries in a Dunedin-based policy role.

The main highlights of his time with Federated Farmers had been the relationships established with farmers and working closely with the organisation’s provincial presidents and national board, he said. . .

Rise of the machines – robotics meet farming – Dr William Rolleston:

In the very near future ‘drones’ could well take the place of workers in forestry and a host of different industries.  It may be a case of not wishing too hard for what the CTU wants because an obvious solution to “carnage,” as CTU President Helen Kelly graphically described forestry, is to completely remove the person from the risk equation.  No person, no accident.

The CTU has demanded to know how forestry will stop the “carnage” and we know agriculture is also in the CTU’s crosshairs.  In 2010, the Forest Owners Association was one of the first to enter into a Primary Growth Partnership with the Government.  This has flown under the CTU and media radar but the PGP’s vision is “no worker on the slope, no hand on the chainsaw”.

The outcome will likely be drone logging machines reflecting an increasing use of robotics on-farm and in our farm system. . . 

Fleeces ‘absolutely fabulous actually’ – Sally Rae:

Ask Marnie Kelly what she likes about Matakanui Station’s fine-wool fleeces and the answer is simple – ”they’re absolutely fabulous, actually”.

Mrs Kelly is the general manager of Central Otago-based Touch Yarns, which produces mostly hand-dyed wool yarns which are exported to Europe and the United States, as well as sold in shops throughout New Zealand and Australia, online and through a retail shop in Clyde. . .

MIE seeking farmer registrations – Sally Rae:

Meat Industry Excellence is seeking registrations from farmers to ensure they are up to date with what the organisation is doing in its bid to drive reform in the meat industry.

While the group had been ”a bit slow off the eight-ball” communicating with farmers, a website had now been launched, chairman Richard Young, of Tapanui, said.

Farmers were encouraged to register on www.mienz.com and also provide details on their farming operations, including what meat companies they supplied. . .

Maori farmers launch a new network – Murray Robertson:

A GROUND -breaking new collaborative initiative to develop Maori farming in Tairawhiti sprang out of the major Maori agri-business hui in Gisborne on Thursday.

More than 160 people attended the day-long event at Shed 3 at the Gisborne port and heard a range of impressive presentations.

The word “collaboration” was the common theme and a challenge was issued to Maori agri-business leaders to work together to capture more value for their owners. . .

Milder flavours in latest olive harvest -

Customers of Nelson olive oils can expect milder, better balanced products from this year’s harvest, say growers.

After a tough, wet growing season last year, which made it difficult to produce top oils, the long, dry summer has been much kinder, although rain before and during picking caused some disruption.

The region’s biggest grower, Roger Armstrong, of Tasman Bay Olives, is pressing about two-thirds of a record crop of about 280 tonnes – 40 tonnes more than in 2011 – and he’s happy with what he’s seen. . .

Hemp growers ready for success – Sandie Finnie:

Waikato couple Dave and Anne Jordan are prepared for a cropping venture which slots into the new “greenwave” of products in demand around the world.

For the last four years the Jordans have trialled growing industrial hemp and are now building up their seed stocks so they can do large plantings.

Meanwhile they sell hemp oil for skin care and related products at their local farmers’ market and can barely keep up with demand. . . .


Rural round-up

April 2, 2013

‘Inspiring’ kiwi landscape in the blood decades on -

Life is still a laugh for 88-year-old environmentalist Gordon Stephenson.

While he was “gobsmacked” to learn that Waikato University wanted to bestow its highest honour on his shoulders, he isn’t above making light of it.

“What do I do in public when somebody says is there a doctor in the house, please?”

“Yes,” he says with a laugh, “that is worrying me.”

But on that score there’s still time up his sleeve – April 16 is the day Mr Stephenson will receive his honorary doctorate at Claudelands Events Centre for his lengthy and ongoing contribution to the environment. . .

Dyed in the wool innovation partners to go global – Peter Kerr:

The time it takes to convert a good idea into something that another person’s willing to buy is almost invariably longer than you think.

A couple of years ago, sticK reported on BGI Developments’ winning the right to commercialise AgResearch’s new textile fabric dyeing process.

The beauty of this process is different dye colours don’t bleed into each other – the picture or pattern remains sharp and embedded in the fabric (unlike say printing on top of a T-shirt for example).

BGI (stands for Bloody Good Ideas) directors Robyn George-Neich and Brent Gregory have spent part of the past two years looking for the right company to take the technology to the global market. . .

Time to shore-up water supplies for the future - Terri Russell:

Southland river levels are the lowest they have been for years. Environment Southland has stopped some farmers from irrigating. No significant rain is in sight. Terri Russell talks to industry experts to find out what is being done to help future-proof the agricultural industry in times of a changing climate.

From flooding in January to a prolonged dry period, the Southland Federated Farmers boss says it is time to look at water storage options for the future.

MetService duty forecaster Ian Gall said parts of Southland were forecast to receive about 10mm to 15mm of rain yesterday but there would be no more significant rain before the end of the week. . .

Orchard optimism follows tough times – Peter Watson:

Turners & Growers has had to make big writedowns in the value of its Nelson orchards for the second consecutive year, but chief executive Geoff Hipkins hopes they are at an end, with market prospects looking brighter.

Bruised by $29 million in asset writedowns, the fruit and vegetables marketer posted a full-year loss of $15.3m for 2012.

The loss, although deep, was an improvement on the previous year’s $18.9m deficit, also a result of asset writedowns, and better than the $16m to $19m loss it forecast in December. . .

Ballance Farm Award finalists chosen – Sally Rae:

The finalists have been selected for the Otago Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

There were 10 entries in the awards, which were judged by Matt Harcombe, Andrea Ludemann, Bernard Lynch and John Barkla.

The winners will be announced at an awards dinner to be held at The Venue in Wanaka on Friday, April 12. . .

Venison gets exposure:

The deer industry has just hosted four young German chefs and eight German journalists to New Zealand, to learn more about farmed venison here.

Manager for Deer Industry New Zealand, Innes Moffat, said the aim was to enthuse them about farm-raised venison and develop relationships with these influential people within German cuisine.

“Some of the feedback from both the young chefs and journalists reveals that there is an ongoing need to improve the level of understanding of how NZ venison is grown and how it can be prepared.” . .

Technology important part of farming – Terri Russell:

New Zealand dairy farmer co- operative LIC delivered its farmer workshops in Southland and Otago. 

Last week sessions were held in Gore, Invercargill and Balclutha as part of a series of workshops throughout the country. It provided dairy farmers with the knowledge to plan and record drying- off of cows and and the culling of cows.

There were two sessions on how to enter and access data in MINDApro, a herd management software program, and a more advanced session on how to produce more tailored reports using the program. . .

Agland goes to market:

A $150 million-plus portfolio of Australian agricultural land, including the remaining PrimeAg Australia assets, is being offered to institutional investors just as they start to show greater enthusiasm for the alternative asset class.

Last week the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, one of the world’s largest pension funds, said it planned to start buying Australian farmland.

That follows two Swedish pension funds known as ­AP-fonden, the Michigan Municipal Employees’ Retirement System, US-based fund manager TIAA CREF and the Qatar Investment Authority buying Australian ­agricultural land in the past 12 to 18 months. . .


Rural round-up

November 20, 2012

Crown needs to be good neighbour too - Richard Strowger:

I was chatting to another local last week and we got on to the often debated topic of the financial impact of Crown ownership of land in districts like Waitaki.

There are a fair few of us in the district who have Crown-owned land as our neighbour and we wonder, like all good neighbours, just what role the Crown plays in our community.

A classic example of this is getting access into Department Of Conservation land. It takes a fair bit of expense on behalf of ratepayers in the district to maintain local roads that lead into Department of Conservation-administered land, but we do not haul in any rates off that piece of dirt for the purpose. . .

Federated Farmers: quality comes first – Matt Harcombe:

The debate over water and agriculture is a tangled web of interlinked policies, on-farm actions, science, emotion, perception and economic and cultural factors affecting its use, availability and quality.

Some factors are well understood, others are not. The biggest issue in the public eye is quality. But access to water and its use, irrigation and storage are also vital.

Although most farmers are working hard to adapt and evolve alongside changing public expectations of water quality, they are also trying to keep up with the demands of the Government and regional councils, while working out what it means to their farm.

The farming community wants to play its part in ensuring everyone has reasonable access to clean water but there is no clear consensus on what pathways should be taken to reach that goal. . .

We all own our agricultural story . . .  that’s the problem - PastureHarmonies:

The trouble is; we all own New Zealand’s agricultural story.

That is, the huge collective effort that went into figuring out, developing and improving the soil, pasture and plant/animal interaction that is our pastoral method: is part of our collective birthright.

Unfortunately, NZ Inc has never (and as such never could) apply for a worldwide patent for the knowledge. There’s none of it that’s uniquely identifiable. If, perhaps way back in the 1930s when some of the eminent scientists of the day were working up their theories of how to grow grass/clover better, there may have been some form of IP we could’ve called ‘ours’. . .

Bid to drown-proof Maori children:

Water Safety New Zealand has launched a five-year programme to boost the swimming ability of young Maori in rural areas.

Over the past six years 22% of drownings were Maori.

Portable pools will be rotated around rural centres, catering for up to 40 students at a time based at the kura. . .

New Zealand Winegrowers release Vineyard Register Report:

New Zealand Winegrowers (NZW) has released the 2012 Vineyard Register Report today, which presents the most accurate statistics in the last decade on the sector’s vineyard productive capacity. The report includes data from 1,841 vineyards with a combined producing area of 34,269 hectares in 2012, which is anticipated to increase 683 ha in 2015.

The Vineyard Register is an initiative from the New Zealand Winegrowers Strategic Review, and replaces the previous Vineyard Survey which was conducted annually. “The 2011 PricewaterhouseCoopers Strategic Review emphasised the importance of accurate data as a prerequisite for understanding future production capability, infrastructure planning, biosecurity management, disaster response purposes, and pest and disease management. The Vineyard Register now provides this vital information and is a significant step forward for the industry” says Philip Manson, General Manager Sustainability at New Zealand Winegrowers. . .

Preston’s Gold sets up for a summer of good meat:

Preston’s Master Butchers have been awarded a Gold Medal at the Devro New Zealand Sausage Competition for its Turingia Bratwurst.

“Our customers have been telling us for a while that this is a fantastic sausage”, says General Manager Andrew Preston.

“A win in a national competition is reinforcement that we’ve got it right. Our Anytime Turingia Bratwurst is a traditional pre-cooked German Bratwurst. It is flavoured with marjoram and parsley and a touch of pepper and garlic. . .


Rural round-up

November 8, 2012

Quantum leap in water management policies – Matt Harcombe:

The debate centering on water and agriculture is a tangled web of interlinked policies, on-farm actions, science, emotion, perception and economic and cultural factors affecting its use, availability and quality.

Some factors are well understood, others are not. The biggest issue in the public eye is quality. However, access to water and its use, irrigation and storage are also vital.

While the vast majority of farmers are working hard to adapt and evolve alongside changing public expectations of water quality, they are also trying to keep up with the demands of the Government and regional councils, while working out what it means to their farm. . .

Challenge to grow more food from less – Tim Cronshaw:

New Zealand stands to gain from farmers getting better at growing food in developing countries, says Methven farmer Craige Mackenzie.

Mackenzie became the first New Zealander to sit alongside selected farmers at last month’s Global Farmer Roundtable at Des Moines, Iowa, in the United States.

Contrary to the view that it might be in New Zealand’s best interest if developing countries struggled to supply their own food, he found there were advantages to farmers raising production.

Better-performing farmers could feed their families, change their diet and gain an income from selling surplus food to small towns, which could mean they and other people could afford better food, creating export opportunities for developed countries, he said. . .

Land use change focus of conference – Terri Russell:

Almost 400 farmers, scientists and agribusiness professionals will be in Gore this week to discuss land-use change and what it means for farmers.

The annual New Zealand Grassland Association conference is a chance for industry professionals to network and learn more about current farming issues.

The association’s local organising committee chairman, Nelson Hancox, said this year’s theme, Opportunities of Changing Land Use, was driven by a notable shift to dairy throughout the country. . .

Jim’s greens fit for royalty – Jessie Waite:

Feeding royalty is just another day at the office for Kakanui’s Jim O’Gorman.

The local produce grower will be supplying vegetables to Government House ahead of The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall’s visit to New Zealand next week.

Prince Charles, who is a well-known advocate of organic produce, is arriving in New Zealand on Saturday to celebrate his 64th birthday. . .

The high frontier comes to meat and fibre:

Speech by Jeanette Maxwell, Federated Farmers Meat & 2012 Federated Farmers Meat & Fibre council, Wellington

Good morning and welcome to Meat & Fibre 2012.

I would like to thank our wonderful policy advisor, David Burt and the Events Manager, Hannah Williamson, for putting together an excellent programme. To my Vice-chair, Tim Mackinosh and members of the Executive, thank you.

Above all, it is you, members of the Meat & Fibre council who deserve to be recognised by your peers. . .


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