Satellites could be ‘game-changers’

Federated Farmers North Canterbury territory manager Harry Matthews (left) chats to national...
Federated Farmers North Canterbury territory manager Harry Matthews (left) chats to national president Andrew Hoggard. PHOTO: DAVID HILL
Space-age innovation could provide benefits to farmers, Andrew Hoggard says.

The Federated Farmers national president took time out from his Feilding farm to visit Kirwee for the South Island Agricultural Field Days last Thursday and said it made a pleasant change from Zoom meetings, which had become the norm amid Covid-19 uncertainty.

While broadband connectivity had improved, there were still many parts of the country being left behind and he hoped New Zealand’s growing space industry and the increased presence of satellites could be "a game-changer" for farmers.

"More and more it seems to be meetings on Zoom and it makes a change from driving effectively six hours in a day for a one-hour meeting, so I’m enjoying smashing out some farm work and then throwing on a shirt and being part of the meeting.

"I’m certainly seeing a bit on the Starlink satellites coming out from SpaceX and I do think they could effectively be a game-changer for rural connectivity in New Zealand, so really interested to see more of those of what they can achieve.

"From the price point they’re talking about it could be cost-effective for a lot of farmers and provide some really good speeds, and then there’s the question of what else you could add on to that."

Given the increasing compliance requirements being placed on farmers, satellite technology could simplify recording and storing of data for farmers, Mr Hoggard said.

But more thought needed to be put into regulations, such as for winter grazing, stock exclusion, nitrate limits and biodiversity rules rather than "a size fits all approach", he said.

"You’ve got to look at each catchment separately. You’ve got to go ‘what are the activities that cause degradation?’, if there is degradation, and it’s completely different from where I am in the Manawatu to down here in North Canterbury.

"Every area is different. It’s got different challenges and different solutions and that’s where it needs to be based."

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