Farming tech yields seeds of joy

Farming tech yields seeds of joy

It may not be the first place that springs to mind, but there was technology-a-plenty at Fieldays… lucky for me.

My four-year-old son loves tractors, diggers, dump trucks, mowers – basically anything big with an engine – so, I figured the annual farmingfest at Mystery Creek, near Hamilton, was the perfect place to be. In fact, I can’t actually believe I started to take an interest and chat to the salespeople about things like ‘side feed options’ and ‘fluid connectors’!

Thankfully, however, amid gummies and Swandris and endless climbing on and off tractors, there was a fair amount of tech to enjoy. There were the usual telco suspects like Telecom, Vodafone and Orcon promoting their rural services (although I’d thought there’d be more, considering the push on wireless broadband to more remote areas, which I’m guessing are rural in nature) – and, in the case of Vodafone, free, bright-red baseball caps that went down extremely well with one half of our group. TUANZ was there doing its bit, as were Dick Smith and Panasonic, which was plugging its Toughbook CF-19, a mean-looking thing that seems ideally suited to the sorts of things cockies get up to.

I was also pleased to see a good showing from the renewable energy boys – everything from wind turbines to solar heating.

One huge disappointment was the ‘Innovation’ area. As if having Dad drag you away from a large, shiny red tractor isn’t bad enough, my promise of investigating space-age tech stuff fell distinctly flat when coming nose-to-nose with ‘hi-tech’ gate locks, multi-purpose feeders and post-pullers. It’s true the gate locks were mobile and just the ticket for moving stock around. And the new-fangled feeders “catered for the changing needs of calves and supplies them with a range of sustenance, including molasses, palm kernel, hay and meal”, or so I was told. Amazing.

I guess my idea of innovation and that of a farmer differ slightly…

Anyway it was back to hardware of the farming variety, interspersed with trampolines (these farmers have all the fun) and hot chips, until I spied something I could get my tech teeth into – GPS farm mapping.

“A farm map is an essential management tool for any farming operation,” said the man. “It’s accurate up to half a metre,” he added for good measure. It seems GPS is just the thing for measuring exact paddock sizes and, thus, the correct calculation of things like fertiliser and spray quantities.

Then there were some fancy-looking whiteboards and map pads that farmers can use to plan, record information, order things, and generally be more efficient. And being made from a tough porcelain-on-steel mix they “will stand up to wear and tear in heavy traffic areas like dairy sheds and woolsheds”, which is reassuring to know.

My favourite gizmo was the Electronic Rising Platemaker, which looks a bit like a metal-detector that you’d use to go treasure hunting but is, in fact, a nifty piece of kit for measuring pasture cover. Once you’ve done the measuring, the data is downloaded to a computer and analysed so improvements in grazing and fertilising can be made. Cool, huh… but not quite cool enough.

And with that, it was back to the tractors…

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