Monday 7 November 2016

Introducing: SARAH ELLIOT

I considered starting this post to introduce myself boasting my passion for New Zealand agriculture - but how often do you read that statement and dismiss it much like you dismiss the over-use of superlatives in rural advertising?

So why is agriculture in NZ so important to me?

My fondest memories of growing up on our sheep and beef farm in Waitotara (South Taranaki) are “working” on the farm with Dad; riding shot-gun opening gates, feeding out, chasing sheep in the yards, probably just being a general nuisance. With endless area to explore, countless animals to play with, green grass and glorious mud your perspective of farming as a child is sublime!

My enthusiasm to participate in rural community events also grew from a young age. I credit this to the fantastic and friendly people in rural communities!

Working as a Jilleroo on Meda Station, a 1.25 million acre Brahman cattle station in the Kimberley’s 
By my latter years of secondary school when I was browsing university brochures I was drawn to the agricultural courses. But rightly or wrongly the school career guidance suggested with my exam results I should extend myself so enrolled into a Bachelor of Technology majoring in Product Development. I graduated with honours and was awarded the 2004 Product Development prize for my final year project with renowned NZ company Gallagher.

Summer university employment tracking milk losses in the Whareroa Fonterra plant one year and manufacturing TechnoGrazing™ system hardware for Kiwitech another also grew my appetite for solving challenges and looking for better solutions.

But what does this have to do with a blog aiming to help farmers improve irrigation efficiency?

After several years working abroad, when the opportunity came up to work with a team of guys who had just commercialised the world’s first true variable rate irrigation (VRI) system I felt it ticked all the boxes for me. I was going to be using my skills and experience as a mechanical design engineer to develop cutting-edge technologies to benefit the people, industry and environment that I love.

John Wright and I at a field day on his property, Wainono Dairies. John and his wife Sarah were early adopters of the Precision VRI system.
I have now been working in the irrigation industry for over five years and my primary role has been introducing farmers to Precision VRI technology and working with them to get the maximum benefit for their farm. I have had the pleasure of working with leading dairy farmers from NZ and Australia, poppy growers in Tasmania, onion producers in South Australia, turf growers in Queensland, cropping farmers, sheep and beef farmers from small scale to large. What strikes me as common to all the farms is that they can have the best technology in the world, but it won’t make a scrap of difference unless the person pressing go understands “why”. And this is the reason why I shoulder-tapped some people who know some things about efficient irrigation and together we formed H2Grow.

I also have a selfish agenda in wanting to increase knowledge of better, more efficient farming practices…  

My husband and I own and run Waikora Station, a 2333ha hill country property in the Hakataramea Valley, South Canterbury. It’s been a tough two years due to extremely dry conditions but experiencing this has grown my appreciation of the challenges faced as farmers. Like many other farming families we hope that one day our son may have the option to take over if he wants, but to make this possible it has to be sustainable (another currently on-trend word for you). And it doesn’t take long to realise how the consequences of our decisions affect the economics of our operation and impact the environment where we live and the community we live in.

Hamish and I on our farm, Waikora Station, in the Haka Valley