Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) is to establish a Future Farm to trial new technologies and farm systems as part of its strategy to support farming excellence and lift farm productivity and profitability.
The Future Farm, which will be a hill country sheep and beef property with around 6,000 stock units, will operate as a fully commercial livestock farming enterprise and feature state of the art monitoring, measuring and communications technologies.
Richard Wakelin, B+LNZ general manager innovation, says B+LNZ does not want the farm’s location to be a barrier to farmers picking up information so the technology put in place will ensure it can be captured and then rapidly disseminated to the wider industry.
The likely model would be a lease property or a partnership with an existing farmer who’s at an age or stage where they’d like to be involved in such an industry endeavour.
“We’re open-minded. We’re not looking to be in the market to purchase, but we welcome ideas people have on how we could structure an arrangement. The key is the right farm with the right people around it.”
The Future Farm aims to exceed existing high-performance standards in a range of areas including economics, people, animal, environmental and forages, he said.
“However, we also want to test new farming systems and technologies that might be unproven or too higher risk for most farmers. The aim is for farmers to be able to observe, learn, and assess the feasibility of how these might be applied in their own situation.”
While a number of farming organisations are successfully operating similar models in New Zealand and Australia, this will be the first for the New Zealand sheep and beef sector. Australia’s University of New England’s successful Smartfarm is one example.
In New Zealand, Lincoln University and the dairy sector have developed the Lincoln Dairy Unit, which has been a valuable resource for dairy farmers to witness first-hand the commercial application of new technologies and systems.
One similarity with Lincoln’s dairy farm will be testing farm systems and understanding the key relationship of financial and environmental performance.
“We’ll be measuring “everything” to ensure we can answer the key questions that farmers and others have,” says Wakelin.
B+LNZ is working with agribusiness company AbacusBio to establish the project and get it up and running.
An innovation and advisory team will be established to guide implementation.
“We’ll also be looking to involve government, research organisations, and commercial partners to bring both expertise and resources and I’m happy to talk to people about the opportunities.”