AgResearch's Information Solutions manager Greg Peyroux, of Invermay, believes smartphones and laptops will be a key part of farm management in the near future. Photo by Yvonne O'Hara
AgResearch's Information Solutions manager, Greg Peyroux, of
Invermay, believes that in the future many farms will be
managed by someone in an office on Lambton Quay.
They will be able to receive data on their smartphones and
laptops and give instructions to farm-based sensors, robotic
herding and sensing vehicles, virtual fences and balloons
And that future is getting pretty close.
While that meant fewer workers would be required on-farm, the
additional manufacturing of new high-tech computer programs,
smartphone networks, apps, sensors, robotics and the
accompanying componentry, under development in New Zealand,
may provide more employment, add to our export balance sheet
and strengthen the knowledge economy.
''However, the biggest issues are battery life of phones,
laptops and other appliances and network connectivity,'' Mr
He said the AgResearch Lincoln Engineering team was working
on the development of a longer life battery.
Mr Peyroux was a speaker at the recent Mobiletech Summit in
Wellington and presented a paper on technology for farm
management that was under development or already in place.
''The summit was amazing,'' Mr Peyroux said.
About 50% of farmers used smartphones and the rate of
adoption was growing, he said.
They were used for things such as data gathering and image
recording, warnings if there was an equipment fault, and
In his presentation, he referred to AgResearch's work in
association with Mosgiel-based Tracmap, AbacusBio and the
Dunedin City Council, which looked at using GPS systems for
proof-of-placement work (particularly for fertiliser).
AgResearch had developed a generic task and data recorder,
which could be used for phenotype recording, carcass quality
measurements, forage data collection and gas sampling.
He said app sensors had been developed to measure nitrous
oxide emissions from pasture, while another system could
measure soil damage and then alert the farmer to put the cows
in the shed if conditions were unsuitable.
He said they were working on an app that aided effluent
management, advising the farmer of the right time, place and
amount of effluent to be applied in a particular paddock.
Sensors would address sediment run-off mitigation and help
farmers make decisions about fencing and stock rotation.
Another app looked at virtual reality planning for changing
''The landowner can point his smartphone at a particular
block and it will indicate what it would look like and what
would the impact be if existing pasture or scrub was
converted into forestry or another land use.''
Mr Peyroux said the use of balloons on-farm was an
GoogleLoon - Google's large balloon that flew high in the
atmosphere - was launched earlier this year to explore the
possibility of using a balloon network to provide internet
connectivity in rural areas.
However, an alternative to that was using smaller balloons -
Agriloons - that were tethered on-farm and rose about 100m.
In addition to providing connectivity and wi-fi for farmers,
they would also have sensors and cameras, providing a
360-degree view of the farm.
''Balloon sensors may sweep the farm and work out soil,
elevation and pasture properties.''
The data collected could help make decisions about feed
wedges, and make predictions about soil moisture and effluent
''Then there is virtual fencing, which is pretty cool,'' he
Stock wear GPS collars and when they get close to
pre-programmed or phone-set virtual boundaries, an alarm or
similar is activated, discouraging them from crossing them.
He said the University of Sydney had developed Shrimp, a
wheeled, robotic trolley-like vehicle with sensors and
docking stations, which was able to herd stock to particular
He said AgResearch's Dr Andrew Manderson, of Grasslands,
Palmerston North, had developed a small, low profile,
battery-powered Agri-Rover, an autonomous ground vehicle that
deployed from a central base station, navigated to a paddock
(pre- and post-grazing), collected soil and pasture data at
high spatial detail.
''I think tech will play a massive role on farms, making more
efficiencies and increasing productivity,'' Mr Peyroux said.
''There is a huge potential and we are on the cusp of
integrated and automated farming,'' he said.
- Yvonne O'Hara