Tuesday, 24 March 2020 10:31

COVID-19: Support rural businesses – Rural Women NZ

Written by  Pam Tipa
Fiona Gower. Fiona Gower.

We need to make sure that our rural businesses are well supported, says Fiona Gower, Rural Women NZ national president.

“With the lack of tourists coming through we need to ensure the small businesses can survive because without them we don’t have a community,” she told Rural News last week.

“Once they are gone it is really hard to get them back.

She says digital communication will also play an important part in the coronavirus response. 

Rural Women has been looking at the best way to communicate with members about the situation, which includes getting the correct information out such including links to the Ministry of Health.

“There is a lot of hype out there and it’s making sure that everyone gets the correct information.

“Our members and rural communities are pretty resilient and innovative and have plenty of initiative. Because of where we live we can be pretty self-sufficient. 

“We can still go to work because we won’t be in the room with 50 other people.  We can carry on with the work we are doing which is really important.”

While huge events on the rural calendar such as the Central Districts and National Fieldays have been cancelled, New Zealand will be better off if we can prevent the spread or community introduction of the disease.

“We will have to look at more innovative ways of being a community because it is really important that we are supporting each other. 

“We have to look at ways possibly to do that rather than face to face in meeting situations or in social situations.” 

Gower says the rural sector has a number of “amazing’ groups and it needs to support their initiatives. 

She adds that rural communities also need to ensure that people are safe and not isolated.  

“We have to think how farm workers who are living on their own can cope, making sure they are well and all the rural communities are kept safe.

“This is a pretty tough time but the rural communities have been through some tough times.  

“This is just another to show how resilient we can be, how innovative we can be and how we can actually make the least worst, or the best, of the situation.”

She says technology will be really important.

“This will be a real issue for families that don’t have decent internet or computers if schools closed. We need to make sure those children are well looked after.” 

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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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