James Ihaka

James Ihaka is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

Life on farm gets helping hands from technology

Days of wading through herd-test printouts gone as smart devices deliver instant data.

Daryl Neal with a prototype electric farm bike which reaches 40km/h and costs just 7c an hour to run.
Daryl Neal with a prototype electric farm bike which reaches 40km/h and costs just 7c an hour to run.

A drench gun that receives data via wifi to calculate the exact dosage needed, and a capsule inside a cow that sends data to a smartphone about its health are part of a technology wave changing life on the farm.

Fieldays at Mystery Creek, the largest agricultural show in the Southern Hemisphere, rolled on yesterday but the continuing poor weather meant visitor numbers were down.

Fieldays chief executive Jon Calder said 23,000 people had come through the gates by midday yesterday - up from the 21,500 who attended on Wednesday.


Twins Kayley (left) and Claudia Vos try to work out how this tap seemingly floats in the air. Photo / Alan Gibson

While numbers are down on the average 26,000 people who came daily to the event last year, Mr Calder said the more than 900 exhibitors seemed happy and better weather was forecast for today and tomorrow.

"Sales are holding up pretty well because I guess the weather dragged out the people who really wanted to be here and have business to do."

Mr Calder said an emerging trend was the growing impact of data-driven technology from agri-tech solutions companies, accessed by farmers from mobile devices like smartphones.

Among the technologies was an electronic drench gun which its maker says will revolutionise how farmers handle their stock.


An electronic drench gun helps set accurate doses for each animal.

The gun from Te Pari Products integrates with an electronic weigh scale which calculates how much drench an animal needs. It then transmits the data using wifi to the electronic gun, which in turn provides the exact drench dosage required.

"Farmers could be over-dosing or under-dosing and it's not ideal for an animal's health, and drench is also very expensive," said Patrick Blampied, Te Pari's director of technical support and development, who expects the product to be on shelves early next year.

Mr Blampied said the drench gun took about a year to develop and was part of an overall technology wave that farmers are taking hold of.

"We're seeing a massive transition in it with the use of smartphones and the number of young farmers coming through who are tech-savvy and are keen to pick it up."

Another technology was the Sentinel rumen monitoring system which has a bolus or capsule device placed inside the dorsal sac of a cow's rumen, or stomach.

The device generates measurements, including temperature and pH levels, which are transmitted to a data reader when a cow approaches a designated point before the information is texted to a farmer's phone.

"For a 500-cow herd this could mean a $50,000 improvement to a farmer's bottom line by using their technology," said Mr Calder.

"It's a lot different from my days as a dairy farmer when we would herd test and about 10 days later we would get reams of paper with your results which you would have to wade through - these days farmers have it all at the touch of a button."

Gadgets steal the show at Fieldays

A tap is mesmerising crowds at Fieldays in Hamilton this year.

Onlookers of all ages stopped to check out the special contraption, and offer up thoughts about how it works.

Younger members of the crowd were especially entranced, with school kids turning their guessing games into a competition.

The tap, which is held up by a clear cylindrical stand, also stole attention away from the animals.

The exhibition was among the hundreds on show at Mystery Creek this year.

Another crowd favourite was the mountain bike and motorcycle combination vehicle, touted as being environmentally friendly and affordable.

The prototype 2WD Steed bike, not yet for sale, is turning heads at the Fieldays Innovation Centre as a viable alternative to a farm or quad bike.

The electric bike, which is powered by a 1.4kwh-capacity lithium battery and weighs just 40kg, has picked up two of the three available awards in the Fieldays Innovation Awards' grass roots category.

One of its designers, Anthony Clyde, said it was an excellent choice for farmers, and had a top speed of 40km/h, a load capacity of 200kg and a running cost of just 7c an hour.

His partner Daryl Neal said the bike had a range of about 100km/h so it could handle working on larger farms. "We've had hunters who are interested in it because they can take it into the bush, shoot a pig, put it on the bike and ride out," he said.

Mr Neal also said there had been interest from female farmers because of its ease of accessibility, and a paramedic who said the bike could be easily carried in an ambulance.

Mr Clyde said the bike could be in stores in the next six to 12 months with a ballpark price figure of $5000.

Fieldays
• Mystery Creek, Hamilton
• 900 exhibitors
• 1380 sites
• Finishes tomorrow

On the web: fieldays.co.nz

- NZ Herald

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