Wednesday, 10 July 2024 11:55

How homegrown tech is making the business of farming easier

Written by  Susannah Batley
Susannah Batley Susannah Batley

OPINION: Kiwi farmers are the best in the world at innovating to solve whatever is thrown at them.

From the electric fence to world-leading science and everything in between, New Zealand farmers can be proud of how they’ve adopted new technologies and practices to overcome challenges, boost production and take greater care of the environment.

That ability to innovate is being called on more than ever – it feels like everything in farming is on the move. Regulations are coming and going. The weather is becoming less predictable and more severe. Input prices have certainly been on the move.

The changing nature of the sector means many farmers are having to manage larger or multiple farms, as scale becomes increasingly important to the economics. It has become harder to attract and retain good employees. On-farm inflation is high, and interest rates have jumped in a short period. Demands on working capital are increasing, and fluctuating more.

New Zealand’s economic health depends on a strong, stable and growing primary sector. That requires greater efficiency and productivity, and finding ways to keep improving what we do so well. The challenges we face require more innovation than ever.

The benefits of new on-farm technologies, like cow wearables and automatic milking systems, offer opportunities for New Zealand farmers to farm smarter, increase production and better manage their farm environments.

But new technology and practices can come with complexity and a hefty price tag. Those considering large investments must weigh up whether the tech is actually worth it. The old notion of ‘iron disease’ – overspending on plants and machinery – is as relevant to farming today as ever.

Amid constant change and growing complexity, sometimes it can be best to just take stock and see what can be done to simplify what you’re already doing. The best new technologies are ones that simplify what you need to do and how you do it.

Sharesies has been developing new technology to make investing easier, simpler and more accessible to everyday Kiwis since 2017. So when Fonterra asked us to develop a new platform for farmers to trade Fonterra Co-operative Group shares among themselves, our first question was, “what opportunities could we create for farmers by making share trading easier and simpler?”

With so much in farming on the move these days, demands on working capital are increasing. Being able to make the right call to invest in your farming systems at the right time is important. It necessitates being in control of your financial situation, and the flexibility within that to make quick decisions.

We heard a lot from farmers about how they wanted greater flexibility to trade their shares – to be able to do this from the paddock or the milking shed as they saw production come in, enabling them to make decisions in real-time. They wanted notifications for when prices were moving, and the ability to more easily place share orders. Everyone wanted greater liquidity in the market, so farmers were better placed to access capital or make investments by selling and buying when they needed to, at the right price.

Sharesies Fonterra FBTW

Fonterra farmers are now using Sharesies to trade from the paddock.

This has been backed up by conversations we had with farmers at Fieldays, ahead of the new trading platform launching this week.

A mobile-first platform allows for decisions to be made ‘live’ on the farm instead of requiring farmers to be tied to the desktop. Introducing the ability to order shares before funds are in trading accounts means financial decisions can be made when they need to be. These were two of the key innovations we were able to incorporate into the new platform.

The easier it is to manage the financial side of the business and the easier it is to access capital, the less pressure there is out on the farm. Connecting users to a savings account as part of the new offering allows farmers to maximise interest earned on cash on hand, while being able to make withdrawals when needed. No strings attached.

By focusing on simplifying a core component of farming in an environment where so much is on the move, we hope the platform will make the business of farming that bit easier. Change doesn’t have to bring uncertainty and complexity. Sometimes, finding a way to take the pressure off can be the best way to get ahead.

Susannah Batley is Sharesies general manager company partnerships

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