Advances in technology have improved farming practices while also helping farmers maintain social connections, says Oxford dairy farmer Cameron Henderson.

Henderson milks 720 cows on a 240ha farm, and leases a further 200ha, to support his and neighbouring dairy farms.

Growing up in the farming industry, Henderson has witnessed huge changes in technology, including tools for monitoring soil moisture levels, which give farmers the ability to accurately manage their irrigation.

"It adds a lot of value both economically and environmentally."

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Digital monitoring systems are placed throughout the farm to monitor soil moisture, water use and weather patterns while storing that information in an online database.

Similar data collection technology is used by farmers to look up a cow's health and ancestry records, monitor milk quality and pasture production.

"Having all our records in one database helps us easily access and manage information in areas such as calving and productivity."

Reliable data systems are becoming increasingly important on a farm, he added.

"[Technology] has developed rapidly over the last few years and we've tried to incorporate as much as possible since we began farming," he said.

"Over the last 10 years, nearly all the technology we've added to farms has an online component. This helps us manage the large amounts of data generated and makes it easier to monitor and make good decisions."

With increasing levels of regulation and compliance, Henderson said it was vital for farmers to accurately monitor and record environmental factors to prove that they're meeting regulations.

"It's important to have the facts to show you are doing the right thing and this isn't possible to manage without technology."

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Social connectivity via the internet was also important for farmers living in rural areas because it reduced isolation and helped staff stay in touch with family and friends.

Henderson provided free internet to his staff to help them feel connected, especially during busy periods of the year when it wasn't easy to connect with people face to face.

He uses a wireless satellite internet connection which bounces a signal off a nearby hill.

"I don't think we would have staff if there was no broadband. They would feel shut off from the rest of the world. It helps keep people engaged with their wider social network which is important when you're living and working in a rural area.

"Young people living and working rurally may not get to interact with many people in their working day, so it's helping them feel connected to their community and the world around them."

For Henderson's roles as president of North Canterbury Federated Farmers and as a member of the Waimakariri Water Zone Committee, having a reliable internet connection is vital to enable him to communicate easily and plan events.

"It's vital for keeping up to date with reports and also socially as most things are organised online too like local sports, parties and community events."

Advances in wireless technology are welcomed by Henderson who was looking forward to improved 4G and 5G coverage in his area.

"Satellite internet is about three times more expensive than other forms of technology, so we're excited about advances in wireless technology."

Henderson understood that some farmers may be reluctant to move away from their tried and tested manual systems, but he believed technology is a must for successful modern farming.

"It makes farming easier and enables you to run a more efficient business. You're more connected operationally and socially, which helps you keep up with the world around you."