Rural round-up

Minimum wage rise no joke – Karen Trebilcock:

In her Dairy 101 column, Karen Trebilcock gave a rundown on wages, asking “are you ready for the minimum wage change?”

Far from being an April Fool’s joke, it was the start of the financial year for many businesses, but not farmers.

If you’re a farm owner with sharemilkers or contract milkers you may think it won’t affect you but it does. The profitability of their business, and so yours, just took a hit.

Back in 2015 the minimum wage was $14.25. That’s about a 40% increase if my maths is right. For farm staff, employees must be paid at least the minimum wage for every hour they work on farm whether they are employed on an hourly rate or on a salary and it can’t be averaged out over a season. If you pay weekly it has to be weekly, if you pay fortnightly it has to be fortnightly but if you pay monthly it still has to be for a fortnight. Two weeks is the most you can average the hours out over. . . 

Wool making a comeback thanks to Covid – Lorraine Mapu:

Once a star export earner, the fortunes of strong wool have hit rock bottom. But could Covid-19 be an unlikely saviour?

The story of New Zealand’s strong wool exports is one of faded fortunes — from the wool boom of the 1950s, when it was our biggest export commodity — to thousands of tonnes of wool now sitting in storage, as world prices hit new lows.

Recent decades have seen the demand for wool decline to the point where shearing sheep now costs more than farmers make from selling their wool. . .

AI alive and kicking in our orchards and paddocks – Andrea Fox:

Somewhere in New Zealand a computer is learning from an expert horticulture pruner the best place to cut a branch. The computer will go on to help a beginner pruner make the right decision.

On a kiwifruit orchard in the Bay of Plenty, researchers are working out how counting and calculating the density of buds and flowers will maximise the harvest.

In that small aircraft above them is a tool to analyse nutrient content and water stress in the foliage, while over the Kaimais in the Waikato, a dairy farmer knows a cow is unwell even though he can’t see her.

Artificial intelligence at work in rural New Zealand. Some of it hasn’t been commercialised yet, and there’s concern New Zealand isn’t investing enough and we risk getting left behind by our agribusiness competitors, but AI is alive and kicking in our orchards and paddocks. . .

ECAN prioritises flood infrastructure – Annette Scott:

Canterbury’s farmers should not expect assistance from Environment Canterbury (ECan) for the recovery of their flood-ravaged farms.

ECan river manager Leigh Griffiths says council is confident that its flood protection infrastructure did its job and that it could not accept allegations of mismanagement or responsibility.

“ECan has a mandate from council to maintain flood protection assets for properties that form a rating district, but does not have the mandate to remove rocks and gravel from any property,” Griffiths said.

Staff may work on private land where this assists in delivering to needs of the rating district, such as where the removal of debris, trees, gravels, forms part of work required to meet the wider flood protection objectives within the rating district. . . 

Johne’s milk test in the offing :

A test to detect Johne’s Disease and pregnancy from a single milk sample in cattle is being developed. Auckland-based biotechnology company Pictor Limited says it has been developing a multiplex bovine test, via a $404,040 grant from the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures Fund. The test, which is being created in collaboration with Massey University, will initially aim to detect Johne’s Disease and pregnancy from a single milk sample. . . 

Bayer opens application window for Grants4Ag sustainability focused programme:

Bayer announced today the opening of its application window for the company’s annual Grants4Ag initiative. For more than five years, the agricultural leader has offered researchers both financial and scientific support to develop their ideas for novel solutions to research and development challenges in agriculture. Since its inception in 2015, over 100 grants have been awarded. This year Bayer’s Grants4Ag winning projects will focus on advancing a more sustainable food system. The deadline for submissions is August 31, 2021.

“Our 2020 Grants4Ag program exceeded our expectations in attracting top proposals across a range of R&D activities,” said Phil Taylor, Open Innovation Lead for the Crop Science division at Bayer. “At Bayer, we promote the responsible use of the world’s resources so this year our Grants4Ag program will support those commitments to advance a more sustainable food system by highlighting projects in that area.”

Bayer’s Grants4Ag program does not have any reporting requirements and each applicant retains ownership of any intellectual property developed. Taylor says the company views these grants as an initial investment with the potential to become larger-scale, longer-term collaborations with Bayer. . . 

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