Agritech - State of the Nation

Guest blogger Hamish Hammond, has written a piece for the Sprout team which gives a snapshot of “agritech” businesses operating throughout New Zealand. He’s covered a mix of established businesses and start-ups, operating in not just your traditional industries like dairy, but also apiculture and wider agriculture. He broke New Zealand into regions and has featured one from each. Have a read and click the hyperlinks for more information on the business’s websites.

Southland – Dunedin

SCOTT is an engineering company specialising in the design and manufacture of automated production and process machinery. They have two major agritech offerings. Firstly, they are involved in the development of meat processing robots, through their joint venture (JV) with Silver Fern Farms called Robotic Technologies Ltd. This JV aims to create a fully automated and integrated lamb boning room.

Secondly, their “SCOTT Milktech” product is built to automatically cup dairy cows on pastoral dairy farms. This uses advanced “robotics and vision technology” including an industrial robot, and can be built into new dairy sheds or integrated into existing sheds. This technology primarily reduces labour requirements during milking.

Canterbury – Lincoln

Lincoln Agritech is a research and development provider which focusses on “applying new and innovative engineering, and science technologies for the primary, industrial and environmental sectors”.

Most recently they have received government funding for four new projects, all of which are important for agritech users in primary industries. These include:

  • Comprehensive aquifer management case study research;
  • Development of a prototype “on-the-hoof” livestock body condition sensor that utilises Bessel beams;
  • Development of a non-invasive sensor for measuring dry matter in fruit and vegetables;
  • And lastly, they’re working collaboratively with partners to produce a biodegradable plastic mulch film that can fix nitrogen into soils, as a means to reduce agricultural reliance on mineral fertilisers.

Lower North Island – Lower Hutt

Ebee is a start-up company who build environmentally friendly, resilient and durable beehive frames. These frames are biodegradable, combustible and cost-effective, made from plant fibre and a “trade secret” material mix. Furthermore, and probably the biggest benefit of this product, Ebee frames are strong enough to handle mānuka honey’s thixotropic nature (which wooden hives can’t). Therefore, these are potentially the “best” alternative to plastic hives for those beekeepers wanting to collect mānuka honey with environmentally friendly hives.

Also worth a mention are  Lindsay NZ who have exciting new irrigation technologies.

Waikato/BOP – Tauranga

Ubco, the Utility Bike Company, have created a lightweight off-road electric bike for the agricultural industry. Their 2x2 bike first debuted at the 2014 Fieldays, and is now available for pre-order online, ready for release in 2016. The major features of this bike resonant around the fact that it’s environmentally friendly and cost effective to run. Because it’s been designed for agricultural purposes it is expected to be durable, versatile and handy for carrying tools. With an estimated load capacity of 200kgs, a range of 100km per charge and top speed of 40km/hr, as well as being as quiet as a mouse, together these make for an exciting development for farm transport and work alike.

You can’t go past TagIt Technologies in Hamilton either, for a range of data capture hardware and other services.

Auckland/Northland – Auckland

Engender Technologies is a joint venture between the University of Auckland and Pacific Channel. It is working on commercialising a device capable of sorting livestock sperm for artificial insemination purposes in agriculture. The patented concept (and prototype device) uses microfluidic technology to manipulate and sort sperm, and aims to supersede the current “flow-cytometry” approach, which is more costly and potentially damaging to sperm quality. Dr Cather Simpson, Director of Auckland University’s Photon Factory, is leading this work, which could enhance the rate of genetic gain in livestock herds here and abroad.

With Health and Safety having greater impact on the primary industries now, check out  Blerter, a new app and online platform for managing health and safety at the workplace.

Hopefully this State of the Nation snapshot provides interesting reading and triggers thoughts around using these or other technologies on your farm or in your agribusiness.

Important Note: The views expressed in this blog are those of the guest blogger and not the views of the Sprout team or its partners and supporters. 

Hamish Hammond is a guest blogger for Sprout. He's completed a Bachelor of Agricommerce degree from Massey University and taken on the role of research assistant part time at OneFarm, all while he continues to train toward becoming a professional triathlete. The research he completed during his degree was focussed on the role of the farm information management system “AgHub” for the collation of different farm related information onto a single point online database. Hamish is also a regular agritech blogger for the OneFarm website.