Sustainability and scientific innovation are high on the agenda of Waikato dairy farmer Grant Coombes.

The father of four children says it's time for farmers to embrace new technology to achieve sustainability.

Mr Coombes lives at Taupiri, in the North Waikato, and runs a large-scale operation with 2000 milking cows, plus dairy support and dry stock cattle, over 750 hectares.

Like many younger farmers, the DairyNZ board of directors candidate is open to trying something new on the farm.


He's in the process of phasing out his fleet of quad bikes for new electric motorbikes.

"I've got seven Ubco2x2 electric bikes, and they are great. They are quiet and easy to operate. I'm passionate about sustainable farming and reducing emissions, so this is one way we can do that in our farm business."

The Ubco bikes first caught his eye at the NZ Agricultural Fieldays two years ago.

Mr Coombes says farmers he knows are committed to reducing their environmental footprint and to mitigating nitrogen leaching through riparian planting and fencing waterways and wetlands.

"Farmers across the country have invested a lot of time, effort and money to improve sustainability and protect the environment," he says. "They often get a hard time from their city cousins, but I think we should congratulate farmers for their efforts there."

With regulatory and political pressures ramping up, Mr Coombes believes that new science and technology, such as the e-bikes, will be vital.

"Farmers are working hard on sustainability and improving the health of waterways, and there are still new things that can be done," he says.

"These days we are 'farming in a fish bowl', and that means that the wider community in New Zealand is looking at farming, and so too is the international community and our export markets. So it's about continuing to look at new ways to improve sustainability."


One example is CRV Ambreed's LowN Sires, a genetic discovery announced in March which has the potential to reduce nitrogen leaching on New Zealand farms by 20 per cent within 20 years.

Another innovation is a plantain product called Ecotain, from Agricom. Ecotain is designed to reduce nitrogen leaching from urine patches by up to 50 per cent.

Mr Coombes says agricultural leaders need to step up and engage proactively in conversations in science and technology. ¦