Wednesday, 15 July 2020 10:46

Major RMA reform need for future hort sector success

Written by  Peter Burke
 Mike Chapman wants proposed RMA amendments expanded to remove unnecessary regulation that is stifling growth of the horticulture sector. Mike Chapman wants proposed RMA amendments expanded to remove unnecessary regulation that is stifling growth of the horticulture sector.

HortNZ chief executive Mike Chapman says a complete overhaul of the Resource Management Act is urgently needed for NZ to recover quickly from the effects of Covid-19.

Chapman says the RMA needs to be streamlined, not for just a small number of major projects, but for all projects. He wants the scope of the RMA amendment expanded. He says the opportunity to remove unnecessary regulation is a key area in which NZ needs to take advantage because unnecessary regulation stifles growth. 

“For our Covid recovery, we need to enable those industries that can grow, to grow, and grow rapidly to make up for those sectors that are in Covid decline,” Chapman told Hort News

“First, we need to look at the sectors that will lead the financial Covid recovery and then look at how we can enable businesses in those sectors to continue producing and expanding. We need to find the RMA blockages and remove them, and if the blockages cannot be removed, we need to reduce their impact. We need to achieve this through a holistic lens that considers not only the environment but the need to drive economic success and New Zealanders’ wellbeing.”

Chapman says commercial vegetable growing is an active example. He says the country has never needed these vegetables more than we do today in the post Covid environment. He says closing down farmers markets and independent fruit and vegetable retailers during lockdown resulted in 20% of New Zealanders not having access to healthy food when they most needed it. 

Chapman believes it’s important that everyone in the country has access to fresh fruit and vegetables. He says, to do that, we need to empower and enable our growers to grow that food. 

“Our vegetable growers have endured static margins, increased production costs and exponentially increased compliance costs,” he adds. “Most of the compliance cost increases have come from RMA rules and regulations that have often been imposed based on pastoral farming, with no recognition that growing vegetables is very different to growing animals. 

“One size does not fit all. The other fact that has been forgotten is vegetable growing has no meaningful impact on national water quality and contributes less than 1% to greenhouse gases,” Chapman adds. “And where there is an impact on water quality, it is very localised, and that impact is being progressively reduced by the growers.” 

He points out that all the vegetables in NZ are grown on less than 50,000 hectares. Dairy farms, by way of comparison, use more than 2 million hectares of land, and beef and lamb more than 8 million hectares. Simple logic, he notes, dictates just how minimal the environmental impact of vegetables is.

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Dutch robotic specialist Lely launched a new farm management application called Horizon at its recent Future Farm Days 2020.

Designed to connect data from a range of on-farm equipment and suppliers into one management system, it creates a real-time decision-support platform, to make the farmer’s life easier, the herd healthier and the farm more profitable, says Lely.

Developed over a 24-month period, with over 100 test farmers in seven countries, working with 75 engineers, designers, farm management advisors, veterinarians and AI specialists, the new application will eventually replace the current Lely T4C management system. It uses smart algorithms and the cloud to deliver data that is processed into actionable information that is always accessible on any device in a user-friendly way.

Lely claims the Horizon application unburdens farmers from routine decision making and helps them optimise their workloads, using integrated routines based on easily scheduled cow ‘touches’, create logical and more efficient workflows. It is also possible to assign a certain task to an employee and to schedule a time slot for the cow touch, rather than analysing different reports and filtering long lists.

Horizon is also able to connect and combine data from non-Lely sources into a complete solution for the farmer removing the need to enter the same data twice, while scrutinising individual data streams in different applications will no longer be necessary. Currently, connections with farming applications such as Dairy Comp, Uniform-Agri, CRV and Herde already enable farmers to synchronise information about calving and inseminations between applications. Lely’s ambition is to connect with more partners over time, to hand the farmer more smart data.

To ensure full support in the migration to Lely Horizon, existing Lely T4C customers will be personally informed by their Lely Center before the end of 2020.

The migration is planned in a phased approach, from country to country, over the year 2021.

Also launched at the event, Lely Exos is an autonomous concept for harvesting and feeding fresh grass to the herd.

The company suggests that feeding fresh grass makes better use of available roughage, suggesting “fresh” has between 10 and 20% more nutritional value than grass silage, as there are minimal losses typically seen during mowing, tedding, raking, harvesting and feeding.

Lely suggests that feeding fresh grass over an extended season reduces the amount of silage that has to be conserved, reduces the need for concentrates and bought-in feed and increase the margin made on each litre of milk produced.

Based around an all-electric vehicle that mows and feeds, Exos is light weight and uses soil friendly technology, that can be exploited throughout the growing season. Design to work 24/7 as feed requirements change, the system places no constraints on labour or time, while it is also designed to work in tandem with the Lely Vector automatic feeding systems.

In operation, Exos also collects field data as it goes about its job, giving framers live data on grass supply and lending itself to a further concept of delivering a targeted liquid fertiliser as it passes over a harvested area.

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