Future tech driving food and fibre

Kiwi ingenuity has been the backbone of New Zealand’s primary food and fibre industries over the last 150 years.

In the past, New Zealand’s distance to overseas markets and supplies, diverse geography and relative isolation has forced the rural sector to grow and succeed through innovation. Some great examples include; the 1882 sailing of the ship Dunedin, which pioneered the use of refrigerated meat shipments, being the first country to successfully use light aircraft for sowing seeds and distributing fertiliser in the 1930s and, in 1953, the invention of the Gallagher electric fence.

Now new drivers and technologies are reshaping how our agricultural, horticultural and forestry industries operate in the 21st century. Globalisation, the Internet, cloud computing, mobile devices and a now always connected world have dramatically shifted what is possible. Digital technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT), big-data, cloud computing and automation are disrupting businesses throughout the supply chain.

So, what does this mean for the average farmer, forester or orchard manager? In a future where many wireless sensors are being connected throughout the farm and an endless stream of real-time data is now available, how tech savvy do they really have to be? And with the growth of online accounting services like Xero and MYOB, is an IT consultant replacing the traditional accountant as the most important business advisor?

For the last five year’s primary industry leaders, technology developers, innovators and early adopters have met each year to discuss how new technologies are impacting upon this sector. MobileTECH 2017, an event running in March of next year, will again be an essential platform for the industry to connect, learn and showcase the very latest mobile and digital innovations.

“This is an age of enormous technological disruption and it’s a privilege to bring together the experts leading the change within this country’s primary sector,” said MobileTECH’s programme manager, Ken Wilson.

“We have a wide range of technology being showcased next year and I’m looking forward to hearing more about how these are being adopted by industry.”

Waiuku dairy farmer Tony Walters is one of the first farms to trial Spark’s innovative IoTs, which monitors and collates a wide range of on-farm information using wireless networks. The aim is to provide critical, timely and actionable data on the running of the farm. Both Tony Walters and Spark will be speaking about this at MobileTECH 2017.

As well as Tony Walters, MobileTECH delegates will hear from a number of early tech adopters, including Canterbury farmer Chris Allen, T&D Pipfruit orchard manager Lachlan Mckay and farmer turned inventor, Nigel Taylor.

A new digital platform is also looking to shake up how farmers buy and sell livestock. StockX provides an online platform designed to make stock trading easy, secure and cheaper for the farmer. Just last week StockX signed on to a new strategic partnership with Federated Farmers. Jason Roebuck, Managing Director of StockX will be speaking.

For horticulture, Robotics Plus, a finalist at this year’s NZ Innovation Awards, will speak on development of the Robotic picker. They now have three apple packers in a full commercial trial in a South Island packhouse. Using radar and vision sensors, the technology is quickly becoming a commercial reality for the sector.

Never before has the technology and IT sector been so critical to the future success of New Zealand’s primary industries.

MobileTECH 2017 will be running on 22-23 March 2017 in Rotorua, New Zealand. The full programme and further details can be found on the event website, www.mobiletech.events.