Craige MacKenzie travelled recently to St Louis, Missouri, to receive the award of Precision Agriculture Farmer of the Year from the United States-based PrecisionAg Institute. Precision agriculture involves the use of a range of techniques and technology to allow a targeted application of water and nutrients to match the requirements of crops. MacKenzie has applied precision farming practices since 1984 to his family's own farms, with a focus on maximising nutrient and irrigation efficiency for improved farm sustainability -- both environmental and financial. In 2010 he founded Agri Optics to provide precision farming tools and services to New Zealand farming systems, with a focus on field sensing and spatial data management solutions. He was also integral in establishing the Precision Agriculture Association of New Zealand (PAANZ), whose mission is to increase the awareness and use of precision ag technologies in land-based primary production systems. MacKenzie believes that a large contributor to New Zealand's innovative culture in farming is due to us operating in a uniquely unsubsidised farming system. This provides our farmers the ability -- and a requirement -- to adapt to changing situations. New Zealand's high value crops and produce require accurate inputs to maintain our international image and market advantage. Farming is like all other parts of our society -- just as we drive safer, more fuel efficient cars than in the past, we are now also use smarter technologies on the land. Our farms have become more efficient and are using less inputs to grow a similar or greater amount of produce. Technology -- including the uptake of GPS -- is helping to drive this, allowing farmers that adopt precision agriculture to have less impact on the environment than in the past. "The use of this technology means that it is possible to avoid waterways and other sensitive areas and eliminate environmental impact," says MacKenzie. "This will continue to be the way forward as we need to meet the challenges of environmental and financial sustainability."
New Zealand's high value crops and produce require accurate inputs to maintain our international image and market advantage.MacKenzie's focus on the farm continues to be on utilising technology to run his businesses in a sustainable way. Having received the title of Precision Agriculture Farmer of the Year, MacKenzie hopes to increase the opportunities available to New Zealand farmers to ensure they continue to lead the world. "One of the things this award does is showcase the changes happening right across our agricultural industry," he says. "It's great to have the global recognition that New Zealand agriculture is right up there."