Wednesday, 10 July 2019 08:47

Taking the guesswork out of pasture monitoring

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A Christchurch agritech start-up is set to launch an ‘intelligent’ pasture monitoring system aimed at addressing farmers’ profit shortfall.

The new Farmote System combines satellite technology with remote monitoring to address a data shortfall responsible for incorrect pasture management, says founder and managing director Richard Barton.

He says the farming industry has so far been relying on dated information and guesswork. He quotes DairyNZ as saying farmers suffer a profit shortfall of up to $385/ha annually due to incorrect pasture management caused by insufficient information.

“Although there are measurement systems they’re cumbersome and time consuming,” Barton says. 

“Up-to-date, precise data that helps farmers improve grazing or silage production hasn’t been available. So farmers are missing out on significant revenue.” 

Barton says many plate meter users will typically only measure pasture growth weekly, so could be relying on information five or six days old or even older if paddocks are wet or inaccessible. 

And he says satellite-only systems sometimes might be unable to deliver data for extended times, e.g. during long times of cloud cover. 

 The Farmote system combines technologies to create a comprehensive ‘picture’ of farm-wide pasture performance.

Remote electronic devices (Motes) are installed across the farm to measure pasture height and soil conditions out to a 3.6m radius of each unit. This data is then cross-referenced with images taken on cloud-free days by satellites to calculate how much feed is available daily in every paddock. 

Farmers can then get the available data via a cellphone friendly website. They can view the data as a feed wedge, table, or graph, on a website, cell phone app or via a daily or weekly email.

The number of Motes required for complete farm coverage depends on area. 

Typically 100ha will require 10 motes or 200ha will need 15 units. Each Mote costs $750, then the farmer pays a subscription of $5/ha per month.

Investors are said to have put $700,000 into the new venture.

 Barton says that the design of the system also allows relevant information to be shared with partner companies to enable farmers to receive targeted and timely advice about farm inputs such as fertilisers or irrigation. 

www.farmote.co.nz 

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