Wednesday, 22 June 2016

An Eye for Innovation at Fieldays 2016

Field days are a great part of working as a rural professional as they are a chance to catch-up with farmers off-farm where the most pressing time constraint for the day is no more than ensuring that you get to the coffee cart before the mid-morning rush and the bargain bin before it empties.

The teams at Agri Optics and Lindsay NZ passion for precision agriculture is innate as is our genuine interest in all things innovative so it is an opportunity to take a look at exciting new products and technologies. We’ve picked out a few of our favourites from the 2016 NZ National Agricultural Fieldays.

Optical Nitrate Sensor

Lincoln Agritech is in the process of developing a low cost, high performance groundwater nitrate sensor. Should this reach commercialisation we think there will be benefits for everyone who enjoys our rivers and lakes.

Jens Rekker was showing off the nitrate sensor prototype at #fieldays2016

Agriculture’s contribution to nitrogen concentrations in freshwater bodies has been under the microscope for several years now. Part of New Zealand’s approach to allow for continued primary sector growth whilst managing environmental impacts is the establishment of nitrate caps on farming operations. However a major challenge for those involved in these negotiations is the limitations of the current modelling to define the net effects on rural water quality.

It is this ambiguity that a direct, real time sensor with high spatial accuracy will resolve, closing the loop on the science so to speak. And therefore could be a vital tool to validate sustainable resource use and manage environmental impacts. We will be watching this space with great interest.

Pasture Robot

The pasture sensing robot is being developed as a joint project between Massey’s Centre for Precision Agriculture and the School of Engineering and Advanced Technology and aims to help farmers generate better information about the pasture and soils on their farms.

Pasture sensing robot on display at #fieldays2016
The current prototype has a multi spectral camera mounted which allows you to map nutrient variability. Plans are to enable the robot to be equipped with different types of sensors which could measure a number of soil or crop parameters. The development team envisage having it pre-programmed to be able to leave its docking station at say 4am to run a predefined pattern using RTK GPS and automatically send back the information to the office. This could be pasture growth levels, nutrient levels, moisture content, basically data from whatever sensors you have it loaded with. Unfortunately, it won't get your cows in for you........yet!

Current sensing technology is typically carried on planes or drones and uses expensive and complex equipment. A robot is a cheaper option that would also be more reliable as it is less weather dependent than drones. The hope is the robot will be fully automated, reducing time spent by farmers assessing pasture quality.


CalfSMART shows new thinking in automated calf rearing.  The system delivers the right balance of nutrition to each and every calf. Calves are identified by their RFID ear tags. CalfSMART sends information on all parameters to your smartphone or computer.

Karl Watson demonstrates the latest CalfSMART automated calf feeding system.
This new product leverages on two technology platforms that have enabled the development of many instrumental agricultural products; RFID animal identification and the smartphone. The power of the smartphone as a farming tool is massive, so many exciting apps have been developed in recent years giving farmers unparalleled access to control and data!  


FarmWalker (from FeedFlo) is a wireless data capture solution for rising plate meters. It allows easy data capture utilising a smartphone app. The app uses the phones GPS to log spatial data as well as pasture mass data. In essence the FarmWalker can build a low resolution pasture yield map, eliminating the requirement for any manual data handling and processing. This app could be a handy addition to a pastoral farmers’ toolbox enabling easy, basic yield mapping.

Robot Ron from Bosch

Robot Ron’s potential could be endless, perhaps his eyes are multispectral cameras, perhaps his feet are DualEM sensors, perhaps he will trim your front hedge after mowing your lawn… we’re not quite sure but he was a hit with every 10-year-old visiting the fieldays this year.

And finally the latest in Farmall tractor ergonomics, shown off during a parade of tractors around the Fieldays.

So thanks to the farmers, the families, other exhibitors, the coffee cart girls and guys, and all those that popped in to say hello and made our week at Mystery Creek so enjoyable!

This post is a combined effort by Nick, Chris, Paul, Stu and Sarah.