Online tool could enhance farm compliance

SHAWN MCAVINUE
Last updated 05:00 07/08/2012

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The former head of Environment Southland says new technology can ensure good farmers having a bad day are not unfairly prosecuted by compliance officers.

Former Environment Southland chief executive Ciaran Keogh said among the well-attended environmental conference in Auckland yesterday were Environment Minister Amy Adams, Primary Industries Minister David Carter and Nelson MP Nick Smith.

Mr Keogh was invited by the Environmental Defence Society to talk about new AG-HUB technology at Aotea Centre. The online system records real-time data on pasture cover, water, effluent and fertiliser management, field moisture and temperature to help farmers make decisions on productivity and compliance.

Council prosecution for non-compliance was incident-based, so a good farmer on a bad day could be unfairly punished, he said.

With the AG-HUB technology, compliance officers could see if it was an isolated incident, like an effluent irrigator stalling, to decide whether prosecution was necessary. The technology could revolutionise compliance by giving officers more certainty and control. "It puts things in context because people know the facts," he said.

The technology cost about $45,000 but lasted up to 10 years, he said, and doubled as a management tool by letting farmers know what their staff were doing.

The system could cut off power to the milking shed if the effluent pond was more than 80 per cent full and would force staff to irrigate before milking, he said.

The effluent spreader could have pre-programmed GPS routes so effluent would not be accidently spread in certain areas of the farm, he said. "It will stop the day-to-day stuff-ups."

Mr Keogh said he had no commercial interest in the AG-HUB company.

The annual conference had the theme Growing Green, he said.

Environment Southland member Robert Guyton, who was at the conference, said Mr Keogh's inspirational speech opened the eyes of politicians, regulators and farmers. "His talk caused the most ripples, it's a damn shame we lost him from Southland."

shawn.mcavinue@stl.co.nz

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