Ngāi Tahu Farming is trialling two different trellis systems installed with an eye to eventual robotic harvesting.
Mini-Me is a robotic device that tows Spikey, which detects urine patches and then sprays them with a liquid nitrogen inhibitor to defuse the patch and encourage greater grass growth around it.
It’s the work of three men: Bert Quin, well known in the fertiliser industry; Geoff Bates, a robotic specialist; and a soil chemist, Peter Bishop.
They demonstrated the device at the recent Fertiliser and Lime Research Centre conference at Massey University last week.
Bates says the pollution source on dairy farms that hasn’t been able to be controlled until now is leaching nitrates; the worst culprit is cow urine patches. “The urine patches are concentrated and the grass can’t absorb it,” he says.
Spikey is fully operational, for towing around paddocks by a quad. Mini-Me, the robot, is in the final stage of development. The plan is to hitch Spikey to Mini Me and unleash them on paddocks.
Quin says the spikes on Spikey cut through herbage in a paddock and ensure the sensors and the spray equipment work properly. The prototype on show has the spikes exposed, but in the commercial version these will be covered, much like a lawn mower.