Fast broad­band a cru­cial tool

Matamata Chronicle - - Rural Delivery -

High speed broad­band in more ru­ral ar­eas will in­crease pro­duc­tiv­ity and prof­its on farms, ac­cord­ing to dairy farmer co-op­er­a­tive Live­stock Im­prove­ment Cor­po­ra­tion.

The Govern­ment’s Ru­ral Broad­band Ini­tia­tive is rolling out $285 mil­lion of in­fra­struc­ture for more and faster broad­band to ru­ral ar­eas over the next six years.

Much at­ten­tion has been paid to how this will im­pact schools and hos­pi­tals but what about the farm­ers? Their busi­nesses are, af­ter all, the back­bone of our econ­omy but what’s the con­nec­tion be­tween farm­ing, the in­ter­net, pro­duc­tiv­ity and profit?

Rob Ford, LIC’s gen­eral man­ager of Farm Sys­tems, said it was sim­ple – in­for­ma­tion was power. ‘‘Real-time in­for­ma­tion is crit­i­cal to the on-farm de­ci­sion mak­ing process and high-speed broad­band in more ru­ral ar­eas is key to that,’’ he said.

The co-op is tak­ing a lead­ing role in the Govern­ment’s plans, with Mr Ford an ac­tive mem­ber on their ad­vi­sory board which pro­vides ad­vice and in­sight for how the plans can best meet the needs of the ru­ral peo­ple it will af­fect most. For LIC, it’s farm­ers – their share­hold­ers.

‘‘Farm­ers are col­lect­ing more and more data about their an­i­mals and their land ev­ery day, and the vast ma­jor­ity record this elec­tron­i­cally.

‘‘They see their an­i­mals ev­ery day, they know their land and their pas­ture but it’s how they use this in­for­ma­tion that is most im­por­tant be­cause that’s how all the im­por­tant de­ci­sions are made.

‘‘Ac­cess to their farm in­for­ma­tion, at the right time and the right place is im­per­a­tive for mak­ing the right de­ci­sions and ru­ral broad­band is ab­so­lutely crit­i­cal to that,’’ Mr Ford said.

LIC, with its head of­fice lo­cated just out of Hamil­ton and more than 1500 staff in the peak sea­son, is the mar­ket leader in farm in­for­ma­tion and au­toma­tion so­lu­tions.

Its MINDA herd man­age­ment sys­tem, for record­ing an­i­mal de­tails and events on-farm such as calv­ing, is used by the vast ma­jor­ity of dairy farm­ers. Pro­track au­toma­tion sys­tems and draft­ing units have re­mained at the top of most farmer’s wish lists since it was re­leased in 2003.

‘‘LIC prob­a­bly has the high­est in­ter­net con­tact rate with farm­ers in New Zealand

‘‘Dur­ing the busy times of the year farm­ers will ac­cess their elec­tronic MINDA records and sync with LIC via the in­ter­net at least once a day to send and re­ceive up­dates but with slow speeds it can be quite a time­con­sum­ing and try­ing process.’’

And for many farm­ers, use of these prod­ucts to their full ca­pac­ity has been com­pro­mised by their re­mote lo­ca­tion and in­ad­e­quate broad­band ac­cess.

The avail­abil­ity of high-speed and wire­less broad­band to more ru­ral ar­eas of New Zealand would change this, Mr Ford said, and al­low more farm­ers to use this tech­nol­ogy on their farms.

‘‘It un­locks a world of po­ten­tial that many farm­ers have never been able to con­sider, ei­ther be­cause they can­not get the in­ter­net or they only have ac­cess to in­cred­i­bly slow dial-up.

‘‘It’s one thing to have man­age­ment in­for­ma­tion in the farm of­fice – an­other when it’s de­liv­ered in the farm dairy or on the farm, where and when it’s needed.’’

Elec­tronic record­ing and reporting is the way of the fu­ture for dairy farm­ing and LIC’s Farm Sys­tems team are con­stantly de­vel­op­ing new prod­ucts and fine tuning cur­rent ones.

With the roll­out of broad­band to more ar­eas, many will be moved to the in­ter­net, pro­vid­ing a range of ex­cit­ing ben­e­fits and im­prove­ment for farm­ers.

‘‘Gone are the days when farm­ers would be sent screeds of in­for­ma­tion in the post, which largely went un­read and unused be­cause it was sim­ply too much, and would take too long.

‘‘Now and in the fu­ture with web host­ing, farm­ers are pre­sented with more en­riched in­for­ma­tion, in a way that suits them so it is much eas­ier to in­ter­pret, and use.

‘‘That will only get bet­ter with web host­ing be­cause the in­for­ma­tion farm­ers re­ceive will be more real-time, with dra­mat­i­cally faster up­date speeds so in­for­ma­tion can be sent more reg­u­larly.

‘‘And they’ll be able to ac­cess that in­for­ma­tion from any com­puter with an in­ter­net con­nec­tion, which is ex­tremely valu­able given how many dif­fer­ent types of own­er­ship struc­tures we see on farms; there can be lots of peo­ple in­volved in the busi­ness.’’

LIC is also de­vel­op­ing new ad­di­tions to MINDA that will see it move from its cur­rent form as herd man­age­ment soft­ware to a full farm man­age­ment sys­tem – in line with the com­pany’s vi­sion of be­ing an es­sen­tial part­ner on farm and in food sup­ply chains.

MINDA Milk is first and due for re­lease soon. This new web-based farm in­for­ma­tion prod­uct will pro­vide farm­ers with more en­hanced in­for­ma­tion and data from their lat­est herd test­ing re­sults.

‘‘MINDA Milk will al­low our cus­tomers to see, at a very quick glance, which are their top per­form­ing cows and which they should con­sider culling.

‘‘These are the sort of im­por­tant de­ci­sions that can be in­cred­i­bly costly for a farmer, whether they mis­tak­enly cull a top per­former, or keep a low per­former,’’ Mr Ford said.

MINDA Land & Feed is an­other web­based prod­uct on the hori­zon, which will al­low farm­ers to record in­for­ma­tion that has, for many farm­ers, been kept in their head. ‘‘Farm­ing is so much more than cows, and get­ting out and milk­ing them morn­ing and night. There are so many ex­ter­nal and in­ter­nal con­di­tions that can af­fect pro­duc­tiv­ity ev­ery day and they need to be fac­tored into ev­ery de­ci­sion. High-speed broad­band is vi­tal to the suc­cess of these prod­ucts as we move farm­ing into the fu­ture to en­sure they are able to utilise them to their full po­ten­tial,’’ he said.

Ad­vi­sor: LIC’s gen­eral man­ager of Farm Sys­tems, Rob Ford.

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