The announcement was made jointly by primary industries minister, Nathan Guy, and communications minister, Amy Adams, with Guy saying: “Technology has major potential to support higher productivity and more sustainable use of natural resources in farming.
“It can be used in a wide range of applications such as using soil moisture sensors to fine-tune irrigation, monitoring animal health and fertility, and determining the perfect time to harvest fruit and crops. Monitoring and measuring is now an important part of managing natural resources sustainably.”
He added: “We know there are some exciting advances in agricultural science and technology coming from our CRIs [Commonwealth Research Institutes] and universities, as well as some great commercial tools already available. But for farmers, it can be difficult to know what tools are right for them, and to judge how much to invest. We want to understand how we can better support farmers to make those decisions.”
The announcement was made by the ministers while hosting an event on smart agriculture at the Canterbury A&P Show. No additional details were given. They said membership of the group would be confirmed before the end of the year, and that it would have broad representation from across the primary industries.
The NZ Government initiative contrasts starkly with the Australian Government’s lack of focus on the application of IoT to agriculture. Its 2015 White Paper on the competitiveness of Australian agriculture gave agricultural IoT short shrift, making only passing reference to IoT.
Agriculture “not immune from digital disruption”
The NZ Government’s announcement coincided with one from the Royal NZ Institute of Horticulture Education Trust announcing the finalists in the Young Horticulturist of the Year 2016 competition by noting “the prevalence of technology driven solutions in horticulture is evident in this year’s [competition].”
The Trust said: “Not even horticulture – that most outdoor of all sectors – is immune to digital disruption as international consumer demand for traceability and better sustainability practices ramp up the influence of silicon solutions in crop cultivation.”