Thursday, 12 July 2018 10:55

Software to keep contaminants out

Written by 
Ballance chief executive Mark Wynne. Ballance chief executive Mark Wynne.

Fertiliser co-op Ballance will commercially launch a new farm environment planning tool, MitAgator, by spring.

Developed by Ballance and AgResearch, MitAgator measures the loss of four main farm contaminants -- nitrogen, phosphorous, sediment and E. coli.

New Zealand-wide trials are pointing to a launch by late September.

Ballance chief executive Mark Wynne says MitAgator will contribute to the long-term viability of farming in NZ.

“It has been trialled on hundreds of farms with thousands of data points; farmers love it because it is simple and practical.”

In an effort to improve water quality, many regional councils are putting environmental compliance measures in place.

Wynne says increasingly more farmers are using Overseer data to set limits for the two nutrients and E coli and sediments on farms.

“But if you are a farmer up against that consent limit and you want to reduce that, the big question is how do you do that?

“There’s no easy answer; the broad-brush solution is to reduce your stocking rate but that can affect your profitability.”

Built on a detailed farm map, MitAgator software gives an overview of nitrogen, phosphorous, sediment and E. coli loss onfarm.

The MitAgator Risk Map brings Overseer nutrient budget to life, giving a spatial view of where losses are occurring and identifying critical source areas on a farm; targeting these areas first will have the biggest impact on improving a farm’s environmental performance.

After identifying a farm’s critical source areas, MitAgator compares the effectiveness and cost of different mitigation scenarios, allowing farmers to weigh up the alternatives and choose the best option.

The programme contains 24 different scenarios, including stream fencing, riparian planting, constructed wetlands, grass buffer strips and feed pads. Some are tailored to specific farm types (dairy, dry stock or deer) but most suit all three systems.

Wynne likens MitAgator’s role to an “80/20 rule for the farm”.

“If you have high-risk N paddocks, these will be highlighted on your farm so you don’t have to address your whole farm.

“You can hit the high-risk areas first and MitAgator gives you three or four suggestions on what you could actually do and how much the improvement will be.”

MitAgator makes it easier to manage nutrient and sediment loses into waterways. This will be better for waterways and better for farmers, Wynne says.

Ballance strives to help its shareholders farm sustainably, he says.

“One of the beauties of being a co-op is you can play the long game; yes, we can accelerate the sales in the next quarter but [our aim] is to win over the next 30 years and keeping our shareholders productive, profitable and sustainable.

“MitAgator will help create long term viability for farming.”

MitAgator’s development was half funded by the Primary Growth Partnership (PGP); Ballance and AgResearch prpvided the rest. The science is owned by AgResearch and licensed to Ballance.

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