Innovation for technology, research

By Carmen Hall

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NZ Grassland president Jacqueline Rowarth and vice-president Warwick Lissaman are in Tauranga for its 75th annual conference.
NZ Grassland president Jacqueline Rowarth and vice-president Warwick Lissaman are in Tauranga for its 75th annual conference.

Agricultural technology is not all about gadgets.

It's the research behind it and how you adopt ways of thinking that can be the game changer, NZ Grassland Association vice-president Warwick Lissaman says.

That topic was just one of many issues canvassed during the organisation's 75th annual conference at Tauranga.

About 300 scientists, researchers, delegates and farmers from around the country have been in the city this week, with discussions winding up today.

"The conference is a very unique moulding of people who are all in one place with one outcome in mind, we all want to keep New Zealand at the top of the world's game. Often when the layperson thinks about technology they think about gadgets but in reality innovation is picking up new technologies and research.

"Research isn't necessarily going to give you gadgets, it's going to give you ways to use gadgets," Mr Lissaman says.

Marlborough farmer Doug Avery's use of lucerne on his drought-stricken farm, after listening to Lincoln University professor Derrick Moot's presentation on the plant, was a prime example of research in action.

"That plant has been around since the 1920s and had been developed into a sustainable robust plant that is very productive, so it's game changing.

"Lucerne is being used in a different way now that makes more difference than a robot running around a paddock."

Local organising committee chairman Warwick Catto said the highlight of the conference was being able to showcase the Western Bay of Plenty and networking.

"We wanted them to go on some of these Bay farms on a field trip so when they go back to their lab and do their science they will understand how to make it relevant to our region. You can read science anytime but I felt getting a snapshot of the region was really important."

"Bay of Diversity" was the theme of the conference and Mr Catto said that reflected the fact many farms were mixed enterprises of horticulture, sheep and beef. Unfortunately the Western Bay was often forgotten about as an agricultural region, he said.

Bay of Plenty Regional Council Eastern land management manager Simon Stokes said it was an opportunity to support the agricultural sector.

"The conference programme covered many of the research topics and important issues that need attention in our region. It will help with the continuing development and adoption of sustainable farming practices."

NZ Grassland Association president Jacqueline Rowarth said it was a great forum to get everybody talking about productivity and environmental issues.

"Some of these farmers have traipsed around the country. They have come from long distances to learn about what is happening here. It's just a very exciting, interactive place to be."

"People want to be able to talk about the research, their discoveries, how they might be able to move forward in terms of production but also protecting the environment; farmers, industry researchers, academics and students speaking is just tremendous."

Farmers engage with new ideas, technologies and innovations when they could see the benefits, Ms Rowath said. "As a sector we need to be doing more careful examination of what we actually think the value is before we say to farmers you can use it. So all of us working together is exciting."

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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