On-farm environmental technology - Latest trends and products

Video Transcript 

Simon Yarrow: I'd like to introduce Minister O’Connor, who’s the Minister of Agriculture, to open proceedings. And then we’ll kick straight into it. Thank you.

Minister: Thanks very much, Simon. Nice and cosy in here. I've been delayed. I have to say, I was at the innovation tent and I've just been over talking to Fonterra. So there's a few issues to talk about and, actually, they all connected. If you wander around the innovation tent, you'll see some amazing technology, some new ideas - some good, some not so good. I could point to a few things that I'd say I wouldn’t be buying that. But the point is I’ll never discourage anyone in this area from coming up with ideas. 

I have to say that [Raj Kushner’s] presentation - he's not here, is he? But both his presentations I think were a wakeup call - Colorado University - as to what's going on with big data. I don't know quite what that means, big data and clouds. It usually means rain. The point being that there is so much going on out there that many of you will understand, absolutely, that government and people like myself try to keep up with. I think our responsibility is to encourage you to push ahead. While we can never feed the world, I think we can help feed the world with the technology that we are building up.

Look, a couple of weeks ago, it was one week of environmental focus. I have to say, it was a wonderful week, finishing with the Ballance Environmental Awards where farmers on the ground were using the best ideas and technology with a passion to show that you could have profitable farming systems that deliver for everyone - the environment, their community - because most of those people were involved in their community, to maintain the social license. But, most of all, a highly profitable farming and commercial operation.

On behalf of the Coalition government, I just want to support you and your work. I’ll spend as long as I can here, to learn as much as I can. It’s indeed an honour to be here and just open this up, and acknowledge all the organisations who work collaboratively to get a better outcome for us all. 

Phil Beatson: Thanks very much, Simon. Ladies and gentlemen, Minister. Today I'm going to talk about genetics - animal genetics to reduce nitrogen leaching. CRV Ambreed is the company I work for; the company that’s developed this. We’re the New Zealand business unit of the international dairy herd improvement company, CRV Limited. Our products are bull genetics, services and information products. In the semen market, we have 22% of the market share in New Zealand. That’s about one million straws per year sold to New Zealand dairy farmers. We export about 0.4 million straws.

The issue I want to talk about in the next couple of minutes is reducing nitrogen leached into the groundwater. Now nitrogen in cow urine is the major source of nitrogen leached. And that is because the nitrogen in the urine patch is at such a high concentration, a lot of it escapes the plant - or isn’t taken up by plants - and leaches through into the groundwater. So the average New Zealand cow pees out more than 200 grams per day. On a daily basis, our 4.8 million lactating cows are urinating about 1000 tonnes of nitrogen. 

As a rule of thumb, about 20% of that is ultimately leached into groundwater, affecting - possibly - the water quality for future generations of New Zealanders. So that’s what we’re about. The question we have asked is can we develop animal genetics to reduce nitrogen leaching, by reducing the amount of nitrogen peed out by cows? And what we've done is measured the milk urea concentration in hundreds of thousands of milk samples. The importance of this is that there is a direct relationship between milk urea concentration and the amount of nitrogen peed out per day by a cow.

So that direct relationship is what we’re interested in. And milk urea is easy for us to measure. So we've identified bulls from this massive amount of data that we've collected and analysed that will reduce the milk urea concentration in the milk of the daughters. If we reduce that, because of that relationship, we’ll reduce urinary nitrogen per cow, per day. If we reduce that, we reduce leaching. 

Our modelling suggests that nitrogen leaching can be reduced by 20% over 20 years through genetics. So thanks very much.

Bruce Smith: Hello. I'm Bruce Smith. Before I get going, I'm just going to set up a little experiment here; a little magic. In this glass, we’re just going to put a bit of urea. And in this glass here, some Eko360 Smartfert. We’ll pour in some water, and we’ll come back to this at the end of the five minutes. 

A problem in agriculture is that the footprint from the inefficient use of fertiliser is not sustainable. At Eko360, we had to think differently about this problem. We had to think about the eco-system - climate change and weather events were becoming the norm - about greenhouse gas increased emissions from dung, urine and urea, and about nutrient enriched waterways from nitrogen and phosphate pollution. How much of this is driven by the 600% increase in nitrogen use over the last 25 years? With most of it going to dairy production, where there was 300% - 300% increase in production.

We also had to think about the economics of farming. Which, as we all know, is always under the pump. Operational and land costs are increasing. Yields are not being optimised by increased fertiliser use. And there are now environmental restrictions coming into farming. We also had to think about the social impacts of farming. Socially, farming is stressful. The tasks all need to be done on time; less people are working in farming; farms are getting larger; and there's a generation change occurring. The millennials are coming, with their new thinking. So old products and traditional farming methods don’t cut the mustard.

To address this problem, Eko360 has worked with its manufacturing partner in Malaysia, SK, to develop Smartfert. Smartfert is a controlled release biopolymer coated urea containing 44% nitrogen that releases over three months. Simply explained, the coating around the urea granule takes in moisture. The urea granule dissolves. And then the urea passes back out through the coating into the soil. When the coating is empty, the coating breaks down the soil particles with microbial activity.

Compared to urea, which gives a response of 30 to 40 days after application - that’s the line in blue here - Smartfert controls the release of nitrogen, giving a 90 to 120 day growth response. Developing a product is one thing. How it works for the farmer is another. For this, Eko360 contracted the independent scientist, Dr Doug Edmeades to work with us on an extensive trial program. Doug has also written and published two scientific, peer reviewed papers on Smartfert. 

So what we found is that Smartfert is part of the solution to improving nitrogen use efficiency. There are a number of ways now that it is successfully being used. In cropping, it is used in pre-loading of crops with nitrogen at the time of sowing. This is ideal also for minimum and no till, and is particularly relevant as cultivation restrictions come into effect in areas in the South Waikato. 

Smartfert can also be mixed with other fertilisers like DAP, superphosphate, urea and ammonium sulphate. Controlling the release of the nitrogen over three months makes it ideal for dairy pastures, hill country maize, fodder crops, vegetables, forestry and, in fact, anywhere you're applying nitrogen. Smartfert also can help with regional council restrictions, such as occurs in the Taupō Lake catchment, where in May you could apply an application of Smartfert and it will take you out for another three months.

New Zealand trials show that Smartfert can provide environmental and operational benefits, and Smartfert is also good for profitable farming. We’re also pleased to say that Smartfert is distributed nationally by Ballance Agri-Nutrients, and is listed on My Ballance. So if we have a look at my little experiment, we’ll see what's happened here. What we can see here is the urea is on the left and the Smartfert is still here. So it’s a very quick demonstration, but that’s how the product works. Thank you.

Glenn Judson: Good morning, everybody. I think one of the most important issues that we currently face is the loss of nitrogen from our livestock systems to the environment, and the affect that may very well have on water quality. When you learn that up to 90% of the nitrogen that leaches from farm systems comes from the urine patch, you realise that is the most important thing that we can control where we have our livestock. The reason that the urine patch is such an important component of this is that if we take the dairy cow for example, she grazes about 140 square metres a day and deposits about 70% of the nitrogen that she eats into urine patches that cover just three square metres.

So it’s that real concentration of nitrogen to that urine patch, where those concentrations can reach maybe up to 1000 units of nitrogen equivalent per hectare, that ultimately leads to that leaching, and where those plants physically cannot take up that nitrogen because of that high concentration. It’s very obvious in our current climate that the control of nitrogen is now not just an option; it’s actually an obligation, and we’re going to have to meet that.

Ecotain is an environmentally functional plantain, which is a revolutionary way to control nitrate leaching from the urine patch. Ecotain is actually some specific cultivars of plantain which are able to reduce nitrate leaching from the urine patch using four independent mechanisms. They are demonstrated here in this device, and they are what we call reduce, dilute, delay and restrict. Just going through those quickly, in terms of reduce, animals eating Ecotain reduce the amount of dietary nitrogen which ends up in urine. So it’s a different partitioning.

The dietary nitrogen that does end up in urine is diluted through a two-step process. One being a little clever diuretic which is contained in the plant, and the fact that because Ecotain is slightly wetter than our traditional pastures, we can increase the water intake. So we get less nitrogen going in, and it’s more diluted by those two factors. We then have a clever delay function. There's a chemical - a secondary plant compound - in the plant which is a biological nitrification inhibitor. So when it’s in the urine, it actually stops the ammonium oxidising bacteria converting urinary nitrogen to the nitrate nitrogen, which is the leachable form. So that’s the delay function.

And finally, we have this restrict function where exudate from the roots of this material do a similar thing. They reduce the speed at which urinary nitrogen is converted to nitrate nitrogen. So four independent effects working together to reduce nitrate leaching from the urine patch. When you bring those four components together, we get some very large control. This is some work - we were looking at lysimeters. So lysimeters are undisturbed columns of soil, on which we can pour urine on the top and look to see what comes out the bottom.

In this particular demonstration - this is some published work - we've got a pasture with 42% Ecotain. When we tip normal animal urine on that lysimeter, we get a 45% reduction in terms of urinary nitrogen out of the bottom of that, compared to a traditional pasture. That is the restrict function at play. When we bring all of those together, in terms of using urine from Ecotain fed animals into that lysimeter, we can measure reductions of 89%, relative to a normal perennial ryegrass pasture. This may be some of what pastures look like in the future. 

Deployment is relatively easy. We can add four kilograms of Ecotain seed to our normal pasture mix to get something like this. We can put in a direct drill and drag it through pastures that are starting to run out - so under-sow and over-sow. We can easily throw this out the back of the plane at 1000 feet, in terms of a broadcast situation. Typically, if it doesn’t go, nothing else will have done. So from a weed background, it’s very easily established. 

In terms of Ecotain, Ecotain is an environmentally functional plantain, and we think this could be an extremely useful tool in the toolbox for farmers to look to reduce nitrate leaching from that all-important urine patch. Thank you.

Matt Flowerday: I'm Matt Flowerday from GPS-it. We set up a farm mapping company about 17 years ago. We've now evolved into not only mapping, but doing software and looking at how we apply technology. In the technology in the mapping space, we've now got our own aerial mapping service, so we can get up to date aerial imagery. But we can also create full 3D plans of the entire farm. So we can get down to centimetre grade contour plans to look at slope analysis, catchment analysis.

We’re also very active in the software space. Very much focused on agriculture. So we build a lot of software solutions. If I run through a bit of a case study on some of the stuff we've been working on - we've been working with Fonterra for a number of years and looking at how we can combine mapping and technology to provide an environmental solution. We started off with the Clean Streams Accord. We’re all aware of how that was tracking about five or six years ago.

So we built a mapping application to actually prove and validate what farmers were doing on farms. We've got over 10 000 farms in our system - 24 000 kilometres of waterways have been recorded in the application. It was a way of taking mapping technology, showing it to farmers and saying these are the waterways that you need to fence off, and then being able to provide a report back to drive change within farmers. We then rolled that out to doing riparian planning and then also doing nitrogen management as well. 

But we've now pulled all of that into one overall application. So we now build a farm environmental plan for farmers, which looks at all the regional regulations, puts action lists in there and, again, helps to try and drive environmental change on the farm. All the technology here is around nitrogen. I guess we sort of stepped forward and looked at the overall farming package. Thank you.

Geoff Bates: Hi, I'm Geoff Bates from Pastoral Robotics. This is Spikey, and Spikey opens a whole new opportunity for farmers because we can now detect and treat urine patches. The Minister might remember when he visited some years ago and Spikey was a very crude prototype back in our lab. We've come a long way now. We've got Spikey on farm and, if you want, we’ll take your order at the show. 

Now the reality is, what Spikey does is it detects that pesky urine patch, and we have our own formula - which we call NitroStop, which treats the urine patch - very much like the plantain, but it’s direct and very targeted. So it’s not a change in the way you farm. All you need to do is follow the cows around. The urea from the animal is converted to ammonium as part of the soil process - somewhat simplified here, but that’s what happens. It then converts to nitrate. If we can slow that conversion down, we give the grass more opportunity to absorb it.

So we have a nitrification inhibitor that’s not DCD and that is proving very effective. Then we also add some growth promotant - typically gibberellic acid - just to give the grass a boost. I mean its feet are completely soaked in nitrogen. Why wouldn’t it want to grow more? Sometimes you’ve got to put a bit of sulphur and a few other things in there as well. But, fundamentally, we’re giving that grass everything it needs, and a boost, to tell it to grow. What that means is you grow a lot more grass.

These spikes are electrodes, so they're not damaging anything. And the nozzles you see there are where the treatment comes from. In fact, we recently increased the density of nozzles as well, so we’re getting more and more targeted. In part because if you were to put a nitrification inhibitor on un-urine treated ground, you would actually start to restrict the amount of nitrogen available for plant growth. And we don’t want to do that.

This slide is quite old. We’re getting more than 70% increases in herbage in our more recent data off the original four farms that are using Spikey. We've seen quite significant nitrous oxide reductions. More variable - we need to know more about the science. We have a really big commitment to science. We have a permanent scientist working for us. We’re working with Landcare, we’re working with AgResearch, and all these groups are really working out where we can go and what the opportunity is.

Because we’re at the [unclear 00:20:48] end of the spectrum, and we’re still growing twice as much grass on the urine patch. When you look at how much urine patch that is, the trials we’re getting at the moment are showing 10%, 15% more grass. Basically, a cost per kilogram of dry matter of 4 cents. There's nothing else that grows grass that cheap. It’s as simple as that. The big thing is the reduction in nitrate leaching. Around the 50% mark is what we’re finding, though the reality is we need more and more science. We’re building 40 new lysimeters at the moment, thanks in part to Callaghan, and that will give us a really good facility to actually relate more nitrogen taken out to where it’s coming from. Is it coming from reductions in ammonia emissions, nitrous oxide emissions, or reductions in leaching?

But we’re pretty confident, from what we've done to date, that quite a bit of that is coming out of leaching, and some of it is coming out of nitrous oxide. As we know more, we’re sure that we can really attack these problems, to make the farmer more money. Hey, that’s what we’re in business for as a farmer. So that’s a pretty brief presentation. It’s a working product. You can come and get one if you want. It’s a real product. LandCorp have just bought one. We’re really hoping they’ll get the same results as we’re getting from a farm down the road. 

Because LandCorp have an environmental driver, but they also have a financial driver. The reality is the farmers that have it at the moment get really grumpy with us when we start pulling it apart because it’s not making more grass grow for them. There's nothing worse than them thinking they're missing a day of spiking on the paddock, which is about the best endorsement you can get. Thank you very much.

Joel Hensman: [Speaks language other than English] Now I said to my four-and-a-half-year-old daughter a few days ago, what should I say to people that have got very important jobs, and they want to know about farming and the environment? She said Dad, you need to do your pepeha. So there you go. She also said make sure they don’t throw rubbish outside. So if nothing else, take that message home with you.

I'm a senior manager at ag tech company Regen, and we are in the business of helping farmers every day. My role is as senior manager, working across product development, business strategy, and business development across the North Island. What we do is we take big, big amounts of data and we convert that into a daily recommendation based on real-time information for farmers. So we know they’ve got lots on their plate. We know they are struggling for time, and they all want to do the best they can. So we can help them operate at best practice every single day.

When we heard our minister speak about big data - I was doing some numbers this morning, and it’s between 200 and 5000 data points every day for each farmer, that we calculate, and turn that into a recommendation for either effluent application, water irrigation, or nitrogen fertiliser. So we’re in that space now. We often talk and hear about the challenges of technology adoption. One of the things that we like to think of is that technology needs to be a bit like your grandfather with an iPad. Farmers don’t want things that take them longer. They want something that will come in and help them out every day. And this is where we sit.

All of the data is autonomously collected, and it’s sent straight through our system into a daily recommendation every day. Of course, everything is then logged. From there, they can put it into reports, they can do their compliance. But, ultimately, every day they can operate at best practice. So what that means is that compliance takes a back seat to good practice, and that’s the focus. Our water product is a recommendation every day about how much water should be applied. Farm weather conditions, forecasting, soil moisture situation, rainfall, soil temperature - everything is calculated, and then it spits out the daily recommendation.

On top of that, we've got data insights around weekly, monthly and annual reporting so that farmers can really come to grips with where their opportunities are for either increased irrigation for dry days, or decreased irrigation, and have the confidence to actually turn the irrigator off when it’s raining, or when the neighbours have got their irrigator on. Our effluent product works much the same way. It’s a daily recommendation based on best practice for where farmers should or shouldn’t be applying effluent.

So we’re there every day, with a recommendation, to help farmers make that decision. Our nitrogen product is a fertiliser pasture growth response calculator. So farmers can put in what product they want to use - and we haven’t got Smartfert in there yet, so we’ll have to have a chat, Bruce. They put it in, put the rate in, and it will spit out the pasture growth response. So what that means is farmers will know, based on real-time conditions, what that likely response is going to be and what it’s going to cost them.

So we’re not just taking a guess anymore. We’re actually having real-time conditions drive farm management decisions. To find me, you have to hunt me down today. We haven’t got a stand here at Fieldays, but we will be supporting the Effluent Expo later in the year at Mystery Creek. Please take the time to come and have a chat. We’re open for business. Thank you.

Jamie Thompson: Ravensdown is a cooperative, owned by farmers, that works for farmers. Our purpose is to enable smarter farming for a better New Zealand. We do this by investing in research and development, new technologies, products and service that will support farmers in lowering their environmental footprints and farm more sustainably. Nutrients are a key farming input supplied by Ravensdown, and developing technology to reduce nutrient loss and improve nutrient use is a key part of our strategy.

ClearTech is a great working example of such technology. ClearTech is an effluent treatment system that reduces effluent volume by recycling water, and helps farmers with their storage capacity by reducing the volume of effluent going into the ponds. There's been a lot of talk today about nutrient loss out on farm. One of our targets has been to reduce the volume of effluent going out on farm that needs to be managed. So you can see here on the screen, there are two beakers. ClearTech works by capturing effluent and treating it, to take that water portion off and recycle it back into the system so it can be used the following milking for washdown.

That means that only a small percentage now is actually going into your pond. That small percentage has got concentrated nutrients in it. And because you’ve got a lot more pond storage capacity, that means you can now apply that effluent at a more appropriate time. At the moment, we all know, middle of winter - cows are going to start calving in the next month or so, and a lot of ponds are chock-a-block still. If guys are trying to irrigate now that effluent out onto their land to lower their ponds, there's a high risk of nutrient loss out into waterways.

So the benefits of a system like ClearTech: it increases your effluent pond storage capacity; reduces your dairy yard freshwater use by up to two thirds; it’s killing 99.9% of the e coli in that effluent; we’re locking up the dissolve reactive phosphates; we’re reducing the risk of consent breaches, obviously by reducing the volume of effluent needing to be dealt with out on farm; and we've got better control over the timing or the application of our nutrients through that effluent. 

Currently, we have a 22 000 litre system operating on the Lincoln University dairy farm. Our intention is to install a 30 000 litre system up into the Waikato before the end of October, and have that operating so that we can bring farmers in and show them the system, and how it could operate on their farms. If every farmer in New Zealand installed a system such as ClearTech, we’d have the opportunity to save about 42 billion litres of freshwater use per year. That’s the equivalent of around 17 000 Olympic sized swimming pools. That’s ClearTech. Thank you.

Simon Yarrow: Folks, I’ll just give a quick introduction to Martin because I forgot to mention at the start that as well as all the companies, we've got a representative from the Ministry of Environment, so we get that nice - it’s kind of like a sandwich, you might notice. We had the government piece at the front, private sector in the middle, and we’re going back to government at the end.

Martin Workman: I'm Martin. I'm a public servant. I work for New Zealand. The key message is environmental standards, as you know, are going to ramp up for farming, whether it’s the public and regulation or your customers and your market. As far as the regulation goes, what we’re trying to do - our preference - is to regulate for the outcomes. So that you take - a lot of talk about nitrogen here. Council is busy setting limits for what nitrogen loads are allowed, to meet community objectives for catchments. Then for farmers, often they're looking at having to reduce their nitrogen leaching levels, as has been talked about a lot here.

But how that’s done - our preference is that’s left for the farmer. We provide for new technology, new innovation - all these exciting things that these companies are doing - and we do it in a way that not only delivers for the environment but also for farmers and their profitability going forward. The innovation and technology that is happening here is cutting edge. Because around the world, nitrogen is a huge problem for agriculture. You look at the EU - countries like Denmark - the approach they’ve taken historically is they come up with 100 page long manuals telling farmers how to farm.

They manage to reduce some of their nitrogen, but what they're finding is they're not able to get there. So what we’re doing is leading edge; quite a different regulatory approach. What I think is really exciting, and where your ministers are at, and this government is at, is that we can lead the world in how these problems that everyone is having to deal with can actually be managed, so that we can feed people, make money and look after our environment.

Another example of this is looking at stock exclusion. Most of you have probably heard the intent to exclude stock from important waterways, wetlands, estuaries. But it’s about stock exclusion. We don’t describe it as you’ve got to fence those waterways. So the outcome is how do we keep stock out of places we don’t want them to go? That’s the outcome. So how do we do that? Fencing, obviously, is going to be part of it. But what's the potential for other technology that already exists in Australia and elsewhere - widely used; collars on livestock and the like with GPS and small electric shock or whatever it is to deter animals.

So how can we future proof the regulations we’re putting in place so that sort of technology and innovation can come into play, and do it in a really cost effective way? Thank you. 

Simon Yarrow: Thanks, Martin. I'd just like to say that’s amazing. These guys have done such a great job. Not only has it been so informative and interesting, but they’ve been on time - in fact, ahead of time. So I'd like you all to give them a round of applause, please. So that means we've got extra time for questions, and engagement is always really great. I've got a couple of microphones here for the audience and the speakers.

I'm actually going to kick things off, if that’s okay. Sometimes I go to these things and I get really annoyed that the MC does this. But now I'm the MC, it’s my chance to do it. Just a general question to the group, and anyone can take the opportunity. What have you guys seen, especially over the last few years, in terms of interest in and uptake of environmental type products? Has it been going up? Down? And what's driving that, do you think?

Presenter: We've certainly seen an increase in uptake where farmers have been incentivised to operate at much higher levels than just becoming compliant every day. So things like the [unclear 00:34:45] program and [unclear 00:34:48] - those are the types of things where farmers go you know what? There's actually money left on the table here. 

I was with a farmer the other day and there was $17 000 worth of milk solid income they were letting go because of a pump logger and their lack of submitting some paper based records. So we've now got that sorted. It cost them about $1200 and it’s getting them $17 000 every year. So there's certainly - financial incentives are driving uptake.

Presenter: Farmers have been very interested in effluent and the things they can handle and respond to, but our experience has been rather heads in the sand, ostrich as far as nitrate leaching. Because, really, it was in the distance and there wasn’t a solution that didn’t put them out of business until we came along. So we see immediate interest in places like Rotorua, where they’ve got two years to do amazing things to reduce the nitrate. And really growing interest in Canterbury and areas like that - Waikato is thinking we just got another year under Healthy Rivers; we’ll worry about that next year.

But having said that, we've got double the enquiries we had last year at the show. So we’re expecting it to be a good show. Interest has really turned around.

Presenter: All I'd have to say is there's a saying out in the farming community that you can't farm on the green if you're in the red. One of the things about sustainability is also being financially sustainable. So one of the frustrating things that we find, and the feedback we get from farmers, is that there's a lot of different organisations out there doing different things, but no one is really working together. So I think part of our role as an industry leader, going forward, is around collaboration with other key stakeholders in the industry.

That’s why we’re working closely with Massey University, [unclear 00:36:30], AgResearch and other industry stakeholders to try and bring that into more of a single platform, if possible. Because farmers are not necessarily computer experts. They want to go out and manage their stock, and manage their farms. They don’t want to sit in an office and manage a computer, necessarily.

Presenter: One of the big things that we've noticed is that if you open up the conversation beyond just the environment to include profitability and the social issues regarding farming, there is a lot more interest. And one of the big feedbacks that we've had in terms of new technology is the way they can actually improve the overall lot for a farmer. Not just in profit, not just environmentally, but socially. I think that’s a big area that needs to be looked at. Because convenience and making it easy for the farmer is a big step forward to getting adoption of new technology.

Phil Beatson: For us, we've released our [unclear 00:37:35] genetics 12 months ago. There have been early adopters. And as we always find, I think, in farming, you find those early adopters and then it gradually takes off. Certainly over the last 12 months, a lot of - there's a real undercurrent of interest and support for genetics to reduce nitrogen leaching. The topic of nitrogen leaching is really becoming a huge issue, and most farmers are now starting to appreciate - and even that has taken some time.

Martin Workman: I'd just make a comment - talking with Fonterra this morning and the [unclear 00:38:26] the GPS-it - mentioned 1000 farm plans that they’ve developed. They're going to do all their farms. Minister O’Connor will no doubt pass on the message - his vision of every farm having a plan that manages their business. I guess the point I'd make is that nitrogen is important, but it’s not just about nitrogen. There's a whole range of contaminants - greenhouse gases, biosecurity, biodiversity. I'm seeing industry like Fonterra really gearing up to look at that whole range of issues in how best to support farmers. They're not just interested in nitrogen. It’s got to be that whole system. How is that going to work going forward?

Simon Yarrow: Have we got any questions from the floor?

Minister: Do the farmers sit down and work out what the cost is per kilogram? This is saying the only way to send a message to a farmer is on the cheque. They are pretty pragmatic. So is it simply the cost of this and the return of this is pointed out? Or is it beyond that?

Presenter: In terms of [unclear 00:40:00], I think the critical thing there is not just does it work, but how does it fit into their overall system? Are they going to have to make huge changes in terms of adopting this in an optimal way? I think with all technologies - and we have been really focused on this - making sure that we either ask the differences in terms of what they're currently doing - we wrap good advice and support around them. 

But we've got to realise that the easier you can make this for a farmer to adopt, the higher the adoption rate will be. I think even some of the really good technologies, if they require a huge change in what you're currently doing, the uptake - while it still may be there - will be slow. So what we've really focused on is making sure that this appears easy and it appears cost effective.

Presenter: At the DairyNZ Farmers’ Forum earlier in the year, there was a very strong message from all milk processors that spoke. And that key message, for me, wasn’t around change. It was actually around reset. It was about stopping and having a look at where farmers are at - where your business is at right now - and actually preparing it for the future, and not just assuming that the way in which you got to this point is the way that you will carry on. I think that key message - although there weren't as many farmers as DairyNZ and others would have liked - I think that’s a very critical one.

To answer your question, Minister, I think that a lot of farmers that are thinking in that space are a lot more open to ideas. I think we have to encourage that, and I also think we have to come at it from a consumer and a customer perspective. Because people are buying our farm produce; it’s food. And we need to make sure that - I don’t want to be the person who says we need to tell better stories; we can all hear that somewhere else. But we do need to engage in that customer focus, and we need to make sure that farmers are prepared for that.

Presenter: I also agree with that, Minister. There is a cost benefit associated with the products that we’re supplying farmers, and there needs to be a cost benefit. Farmers learn off other farmers, primarily. They like to see other people leading and doing things. If they're leading and doing things successfully, then they will follow them. But coming back to the collaboration, I couldn’t agree more regarding farm systems. We’re in for a lot of farm system changes in the next five years. I think that it’s all very well solving one environmental issue, but you're creating another issue in that farm system. We need to think about that as a whole farm system.

I think having rural professionals out there that understand the farm system, and understand the changes that might occur within that farm system if you change one part of it, is pretty important. So collaboration, again, with industry stakeholders is really important.

Presenter: Back to the question about cost per kilogram, I guess the feedback from farmers is what's led me to make such a big deal out of it. The reality is it’s a huge battle ahead of us to get accepted in Overseer, and an enormous amount of money that somehow we have to find. Until we’re in Overseer, the only thing we can truly sell on is economics. Wouldn’t it be great if everyone takes up technology because they're making more money and, hey, just fix the environment problem at the same time?

Presenter: I guess sort of what we do with the farm environmental plans is around capturing all of that information. So farmers are already doing a pretty good job on a lot of these things. But I am going to use a bit of [unclear 00:43:25]. It’s around capturing that information and being able to share it back out, but also being able to track and action plans of what's going on. Also we sort of talk about the collaboration as well. One of the trends we've seen is everyone talking to each other. In the past, we've been very siloed and go we’re going to do this and we’re going to do everything.

Whereas, now, we’re sort of going back to that sort of best in breed, you know? Like what do you guys do really well? How can we all work collectively together? Because, at the end of the day, we’re all working for the same [purpose].

Presenter: I'd just like to follow up on the comment about Overseer. If there's a handbrake on new technology, that’s it. It basically cements in the traditional, established products and established ways of doing things. If you're in the business of new technology, the first thing the farmer says when you’ve gone through everything - and is happy with everything - is it in Overseer? Now you’ve got another story. So that’s the take-home message from us, Minister. It’s pretty loud and clear.

Minister: Can I just say, we committed another $5 million to Overseer in the last budget. That is because we have to validate it. We understand that it’s a bit faulty. It was designed for fertiliser application, not for regulation, and not for the things that it’s being asked to do. So we realise there are deficiencies in it, and we’ll do our bit. Can I just say, I asked the question because it’s actually amazing to have all of this knowledge and all this innovation here, and I'm just kind of saying can you work together to come up with a solution, and come to us?

Because I think Martin referred to the objective that I have, in working with the Minister of Environment - we’d like to have one farm plan process for farmers. If you looked at all of these technologies and said you go along to the farmer each time with a good idea, they’ll just get sick of it. So they need to be able to sit down with the assistance of really good advisers and do one farm plan that covers nutrients, inputs, outputs, animal welfare, biosecurity in particular, so that one farm plan then meets the requirements of the regional council, and of the dairy company, and of our customers.

It’s accreditation. I've done it through Origin Green in Ireland - not perfect, but it’s not a bad model. I think the government is open to this, and Martin will be in the position of having to take on board all that information. And then ministers, I can assure you, are really keen to move as quickly as possible. I cynically talk about the message on a cheque, but there is so much opportunity there. What we are going to do is roll out extension services. That’s not the old MAF advisory service, but we have to ensure that the bottom 20% of farmers who still affect our reputation in a big, big way get access to all of this, so we can lift their game as well.

It’s not just good enough for these guys to talk to the people at the top, and we think we’re making progress, when we've still got the laggards. Sometimes they just - because they don’t have the money for consultants, or they don’t have the knowledge to actually engage. They continue farming the way that their fathers and ancestors did, and it’s not good enough anymore. So we are open to this - all of this technology. But, again, like the farmers, if we have all of you coming in, it will take a lot of time. So we hope that, through Callaghan and other organisations, there can be coordination. So we’re up for this if you guys are.

Simon Yarrow: Any questions from the audience? I've got one more. I'm going to keep you here until - no, just maybe one last area. We are in the International Business Centre, so I'd be really interested to hear about what you guys think the opportunities are for your technologies internationally, export, anything like that. Is that on the radar? I'd love to hear about that.

Jamie Thompson: We've had a lot of interest from overseas in our technology. We've decided at this stage to keep it within New Zealand, because we are a cooperative. We’re owned by farmers and we work for farmers. We wondered what the benefit for New Zealand farmers would be by exporting or patenting our technology overseas. There's lots of opportunity. It works with lots of different industries. In particular, the stock transport industry is an example at the moment. They’ve got some big issues with effluent. They’ve gone from washing their trucks and trailers out once a week, on a Saturday normally, and using 14 000 or 15 000 litres each time they wash their truck out, to now washing it out three to four times per day because of the [unclear 00:48:29] issue.

Farmers do not want trucks turning up to remove stock off their farm dirty. So they’ve got some big issues, and we’re working with that industry also to try and solve some of their problems. But at the moment, because we’re a cooperative, we’re focusing on our New Zealand shareholders, who are also our customers.

Glenn Judson: Ecotain has got application anywhere you have animals grazing outdoors, creating urine patches. We, as a company, have got access to markets in areas where they do that - farm animals outdoors. I would say New Zealand is particularly ideal, because we have this output model. In other countries, where there are input models, this may be slightly harder to get over the line in terms of - you know, in their mind, about how this works. Because we’re asking [unclear 00:49:24] more fertiliser, for example, for less loss. 

But certainly we have looked at - there's a lot of interest in terms of places like Europe, and certainly the US, South America in terms of the deployment of this product. So we’re certainly looking further afield than New Zealand. Although, any development [unclear 00:49:45] certainly still benefit our arable farmers that are producing [unclear 00:49:51].

Joel Hensman: Certainly right now, Regen has a domestic focus. We want to help farmers make sure they're reducing water, and saving power, saving money, growing more grass, doing all the things that they're trying to achieve. So there's no reason, though, while we've built that on a solid foundation of science here in New Zealand, that we couldn’t take that into not only overseas markets but also other row crops, all sorts of things. So it’s about using the right amount of water at the right time and in the right place. So absolutely.

Geoff Bates: I have one more comment. The best way to put a small start-up out of business making electromechanical products is to get them overseas before they're 100% reliable. I do wish the judges in some of the competitions would realise that. But they’ve never developed anything in their lives. We definitely intend to export. We’re talking to Ireland. We’re talking with Australia. But we won't be doing it until we know we’re going to actually be sending a product away that a broken resistor doesn’t cost us $4000 or $5000 to fix.

Matt Flowerday: Some of our technology we’re already exporting to Australia, South America and the UK. And we’re launching a software mapping product of the US next month. So we've found that a lot of the stuff we do down here is quite unique, and when we tell our story offshore, they're like we should be doing this. An example of that is the Fieldays application that we built. That’s been shown offshore [unclear 00:51:20]. They don’t even have that technology [unclear 00:51:23]. So we’re really punching above our weight.

Phil Beatson: We've had some international interest in our genetics, because not only will these cows pee out less nitrogen, there's also [unclear 00:51:53] dietary nitrogen towards milk protein. So their efficiency of nitrogen use is [unclear 00:52:01] international interest.

Simon Yarrow: Last chance for an audience question. Yes.

Female Voice 1: Thank you very much for organising the seminar. It was very awesome. I just want to know a bit more about Callaghan Innovation. What are your main services? Are there any upcoming initiatives that the audience can actually tap into in the next couple of months?

Simon Yarrow: The quick rundown is we’re a Crown agency, like New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, our sister agency here today. NZTE is really focused on export markets and helping New Zealand companies grow. We’re more focused at the innovation, technology and research and development side. But we also do have an international focus, as well - that’s why I was asking the guys about that - especially with those early stage companies. So basically, we co-fund companies. If they're wanting to do research and development, we can help co-fund that work.

We can help them around training, around innovation techniques. There are cool things like agile, lean, design thinking. We can help companies take those techniques on board. We have our own technical capability, so we can actually do the work for companies and/or point them in the right direction. Some of the companies that were talked about - you know, Grattan Institute, Massey Uni and AgResearch - can do the work for them too, and we can introduce them to those folks as well. Lastly, but not least, we’re kind of - we like to do stuff like today. You know, promote technology, promote collaboration - that was a really good comment here from the Minister as well, encouraging us to do that - and provide that foresight around where things are heading, both here in New Zealand and internationally. So that’s the 30 second elevator pitch in 90 seconds.

Okay, without further ado, first of all we’d really like to thank you guys for your participation today, and thank the speakers. We've been filming today. I forgot to mention that. So we’re going to be putting this on our website and NZTE’s website?

Female Voice 2: NZTE, and it will be linked. Yeah. So either go through the Fieldays website or NZTE’s to get a copy of this if you want to share it. I'd just ask you to put your hands together for the speakers, who did a great job. Thank you.