Category Archives: events

Onions Update Field Walk

LandWISE MicroFarm
21 Ruahapia Rd, Waipatu, Hastings
Monday 11 December 2:00pm

In our final year of “Benchmarking Onions” we have again planted a crop at the MicroFarm. It went into a suitably moist soil, emerged reasonably evenly but has shown increasing variation. We now have very good areas and very disappointing areas. 

We’ve mapped the crop with our CoverMap system again this season so we can compare 2015-16, 2016-17 and 2017-18 growth patterns. Are there areas that consistently perform better or worse? What is driving the variation we see?

We also have a few different varieties we are tracking to see how canopy development fits our web calculator. We want to know if the same calculations can be applied to phone images or if variety-based tweeks are necessary.

In a couple of fertiliser application trials we comparing standard and late application because we understand most nitrogen is taken up at or after bulbing. And based on our mapping, we are comparing the effects of full and half rates on areas where canopy cover is low. Maybe we can cut back, save fertiliser and leaching and get the same yield with improved bulb quality.

Come along and see for yourself!

Note: This field walk follows the HotGrass electric weeding demonstration, see more here>

Our Onion Research is in conjunction with Plant and Food Research. It is funded by Onions NZ and the Sustainable Farming Fund. This season we are being aided by Apatu Farms who are helping with field operations and harvest and we are very grateful for their support.


PA17 – Tri-Conference on Precision Agriculture

PA17 – The International Tri-Conference for Precision Agriculture 

PA17 in Hamilton in October was three conferences in one. The 7th Asian-Australasian Conference of Precision Agriculture and the 1st Asian-Australasian Conference on Precision Pasture and Livestock Farming both have strong emphasis on research. The Digital Farmer and Grower conference was aimed at practitioners with farmers and consultants presenting and forming discussion panels. All ran in parallel with some joint sessions and delegates could jump from one to the other.

Many of the 500 delegates were international, many were younger and many were women; quite different to almost every other precision agriculture event I have attended. Also notable was the breadth of sectors represented. Precision agriculture has been strongly rooted in broadacre cropping, now we are seeing strong interest in animal management and for permanent crops such as pipfruit and viticulture.

A choice of field visits included trips to see Massey University hyperspectral research at Limestone Downs, production facilities at Gallagher Engineering, robotic milking at the LIC Automation research dairy farm and visits to FAR, Plant and Food, and Ballance AgriNutirents research sites.

Below there are short profiles of the international profile, a sample of the international speakers that presented at the international tri-conference in Hamilton.

PA17 was presented by the Precision Agriculture Association of New Zealand and chaired by Armin Werner from Lincoln Agritech.

International experts

Prof Derek Bailey
Derek Bailey is a Professor of Range Science and has been at New Mexico State University (NMSU) since 2005. He teaches courses in rangeland management, research methods, vegetative monitoring and livestock handling. In addition to teaching and research responsibilities, he is the Director of the Chihuahuan Desert Rangeland Research Center (a 24700 ha research ranch). 

Prof Daniel Beckmans
Daniel Berckmans obtained a Master Degree and a Ph. D. in Bio-Science Engineering at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium. He is full professor, leads the Division M3-Biores (Measure, Model and Manage Bioresponses), Department of Biosystems, Faculty of Bioscience Engineering at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven.

Mr Jeffrey Bewley
Jeffrey Bewley is from Rineyville, Kentucky where he grew up working on his grandfather’s (Hilary Skees) dairy farm. He received a B.S. in Animal Sciences from the University of Kentucky in 1998. 

Mr Mark Branson
Owner manager of ‘Branson Farms” a 1200ha mixed farm at Stockport, 80km North of Adelaide. The farm grows Wheat, Barley, Canola, Field Peas, Faba Beans, Lentils, and breed fine wool merino sheep that run on cereal and legume pastures. He went to Roseworthy Ag. College where he graduated with a Bachelor of Applied Science in Agriculture.

Dr Karel Charvat
Karel Charvat graduated in theoretical cybernetics. He is a member of ISPA, RDA, Club of Ossiach, CAGI, and CSITA. He was in period 2005 – 2007 President of European Federation for Information Technology in Agriculture Food and Environment (EFITA). He is currently representative of HSRS in OGC Agriculture DWG. He has long time expereince in ICT for Agriculture and Precision Farming.

Dr Daan Goense
Daan Goense studied Agricultural Engineering at what is now Wageningen University. After a five year research project in Suriname on the design of a mechanized farming system for dry annual crops in the humid tropics he became Assistant and later Associate Professor at the department of Agricultural Engineering of Wageningen University in the field of farm machinery management.

Prof Naoshi Kondo
Naoshi Kondo is currently a professor, Graduate School of Agriculture, Kyoto University and is working on automation and sensing systems in agriculture, livestock and aquaculture aiming precision farming.He graduated from undergraduate and graduate schools (Department of Agricultural Engineering), Kyoto University in 1982 and 1984 respectively, and was engaged at Okayama University in 1985 as an assistant professor for 15 years.

Dr Nicolas Tremblay
Nicolas Tremblay, Ph.D., agronomist, is senior research scientist for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC; the Federal Department of Agriculture in Canada). He graduated from Laval University in 1982 and joined AAFC in 1985. He studied the management of vegetable transplants and crop fertilization in both muck (carrot, lettuce) and mineral soils (tomato, broccoli, vegetables for processing).

Prof Mark Rutter
Mark Rutter is Professor of Applied Animal Behaviour at Harper Adams University, Newport, Shropshire, UK. After graduating in Agricultural Science at the University of Leeds, he gained an MSc in Biological Computation from the University of York before being awarded a PhD in animal behaviour from the University of Edinburgh.

Dr Manjeet Singh Makkar
Manjeet Singh joined Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) in the year 1996 in the College of Agricultural Engineering and Technology. He had completed his B E (Agri Engg) from College of Technology and Agricultural Engineering, Udaipur, M Tech and PhD In the field of Farm Power and Machinery from PAU, Ludhiana. He has joined as Head of the Department on December 24, 2016.

Miriana Stephens
Miriana was born in Motueka and raised by her grandparents. Her qualifications include a Bachelor of Arts (NZ History) and a Law Degree. She currently resides in Motueka and has four children. She was recently awarded the 2016 Aotearoa NZ Māori Woman Business Leader award in recognition of outstanding success and excellence in business.

⁠Prof Maohua Wang
Maohua Wang is now as Professor, College of Information & Electrical Engineering, China Agricultural University (CAU), Chairman of Academic Committee of Key Laboratory of Modern Precision Agriculture System Integration Research under Ministry of Education and Key labolatories Group on Agricultural Information Technology under Ministry of Agricultiure , P.C. China.

Prof Raj Khosla
Raj Khosla is Robert E. Gardner Professor of Precision Agriculture at Colorado State University (CSU). In addition, he holds the title of CSU distinguished Monfort Professor. In 2015,Dr. Khosla was recognized as the “Precision Ag Educator of the Year 2015”, a national honor bestowed by the agricultural industry.

Dr Sjaak Wolfert
Sjaak Wolfert studied Plant Science in Wageningen and finished his PhD ‘Sustainable agriculture: how to make it work?’ in 2002. Currently, he is working as Senior Scientist at Wageningen University; Research in the field of Information Management; ICT in Agri-Food.

Brad Wooldridge
Brad and Tracy Wooldridge are mixed farmers at Arthur River (450mm av. growing season rainfall ) and 250km away at Kalgan (South coast 800mm ) in Western Australia, running a 2600 head composite sheep flock and cropping  barley, lupins, canola and oats.


Public Lecture on Gene Editing

Biotechnology and genetic modification 40 years on and the rise of gene editing

Dr Elspeth MacRae, General Manager Manufacturing & Bioproducts, Scion
Date: 6.00pm Wednesday 11 October 2017
Venue: National Aquarium, Marine Parade, Napier

Admission: Gold coin donation

People have been improving plants and animals for many centuries. Most of the foods we eat and drink have been changed (domesticated) by humans. For many centuries this was done by selecting naturally occurring changes (or mutations) and using them to breed improved plants or animals – a very slow process. More recently we have been able to use biotechnology to make the same sort of changes in a much faster and more predictable way.

This Royal Society Te Aparangi talk will describe these Genetic Modification technologies, including the recent developments in gene editing (CRISPR-cas9). Examples of improved products will be highlighted, and the potential of gene editing to revolutionise food production will be discussed.

Dr Elspeth MacRae is the General Manager Manufacturing & Bioproducts at Scion in Rotorua. She is a member of the management group for the 2014 New Zealand National Science Challenge in Science and Technology for Industry, and leads the design, materials and manufacturing portfolio.

Scion is a Crown Research Institute that specialises in research, science and technology development for the forestry, wood product, wood-derived materials, and other biomaterial sectors.

Australasian Precision Agriculture Symposium

Dan Bloomer attended the 20th Symposium on Precision Agriculture in Sydney.

The PA Symposium brings together farmers, growers, researchers, advisors and industry to discuss and absorb developments. Speakers covered cutting edge research, on-farm application by researchers, advisors and farmers, and industry background information such as the state of telecommunications and data ownership.

As Brett Whelan told delegates, “The purpose of precision agriculture has always been to increase the number of correct decisions made in the businesses of crop and animal management. It is a logical step in the evolution of agricultural management systems toward increased efficiency of inputs relative to production, minimized waste and improved product quality, traceability and marketability.”

Crop and soil sensing continues to develop, and there is increasing use of new approaches. Canopy assessment has relied heavily on NDVI, the 1970s vegetation index chosen for distinguishing forest from desert and ocean.  In recent years a wider range of sensors capturing more light bands (blue, green, red and infrared) have become affordable and available. Some look at red-edge and thermal infra-red, two bands often related to crop stress of some form.  Off the shelf cameras that fit simple UAVs are within farm budgets now.

Ian Yule described research with hyperspectral sensors that capture very detailed images with hundreds of light bands. Hundreds of ground control samples provide “real” information and enormous amounts of data get analysed to identify relationships. The capacity of this to determine species, plant nutrient status and other useful information is remarkable. The current research equipment and processing is very expensive but assume price drops as commercialisation progresses.

Machine vision including object shape, texture and colour is being used to recognise individual objects such as plants, parts of plants or specific weeds. Discussing robotics research to guide decision making on vegetable farms Zhe Xu noted, “If a human can recognise something, a machine can be taught to as well.” Get used to artificial intelligence, neural programming and autonomous phenotyping!

We presented our own onions research which is using smartphone cameras to capture very useful crop development information quickly and cost effectively. Combined with crop models and web based calculation we can predict final yields with fair accuracy early enough to support crop management decisions.  

An Australian vegetable research project is using similar approaches to support decision making in carrot crops and investigating others with promise.  That team includes researchers and farmers, and is increasingly using yield monitors for crops such as potatoes and carrots. Converting yield data to value allows farmers to estimate costs of variability and how much to invest to fix problem areas.

Data capture, communications and analysis was a key theme.  Kim Bryceson described the establishment of a sensor network and analytics using IoT (internet of things) tools at Queensland University Gatton.  Rob Bramley explained a process that predicted sugar yields at regional scale to promote better fertiliser management in that industry. Patrick Filippi presented a “big data” approach to predicting grain yield.

The data revolution is changing our world in ways we can’t yet imagine. The increasing amount of things measured, the spatial scale and time span of collection and development of data science to analyse huge streams of information revolutionise our understanding. These are exciting times. Some jobs are going to go, but others will be created as we require completely new skills for jobs not heard of a decade ago. 

“We are all in the position of making decisions from a limited understanding or a particular perspective, working with biological systems that are incredibly complex and impossible to fully understand, “ said Ian Yule. “Recent experience with new sensing technologies and data processing has produced new information that challenges our preconceived ideas and understandings,” he said.

The PA Symposium is presented by SPAA, the Society for Precision Agriculture Australia, and the Precision Agriculture Laboratory at the University of Sydney. There has always been a New Zealand presence because while some details are unique, the tools and processes are for the most part generic. 

Sustainable Weed Management Workshop

Approaches to the non-chemical / sustainable management of weeds

Full House at Weed Control Workshop.

With the increasing and well know issues surrounding herbicides, such as resistant weeds, ‘resistant’ consumers and increased regulation, non-chemical/herbicide weed management is becoming increasingly important. 

Growers are well aware of the limitations of current weed management tools and practices. They recognise simple chemical solutions are increasingly limited and more sophisticated management is essential.

In response to this need, the BHU Future Farming Centre, NZ’s leading specialist sustainable agriculture research centre, and LandWISE with its focus on sustainable production through technology ran a non-chemical weed management workshop to give attendees the knowledge and tools they need to make significant enhancements to the long-term sustainability of their on-farm weed management practices. 

Topics covered included the context of weed management, essential weed biology and ecology, integrated weed management plus detailed coverage of field operations and machinery.   Full information can be found at

Dr Charles Merfield, Head of the Future Farming Centre, said “the aim of this practically focused course was to give attendees a sound overview of the whole of non-chemical weed management as well as providing practical details about how to implement the ideas once they get back to the farm.” 

The feedback from attendees was very positive and we anticipate running this again next winter. We already have a wait list so contact us if you are keen

Download pdf here>

For further information please contact:

Dr Charles Merfield
Head, BHU Future Farming Centre
021 0231 8901
Dan Bloomer
LandWISE Manager
021 356 801

Baker Ag “Inspiring Agriculture”

The BakerAg Winter Seminar

Wednesday 5th July 2017, Copthorne Solway Park Hotel, Masterton

Baker Ag are proud to announce that this year’s seminar has one of the best line-ups yet:

• Melissa Clark-Reynolds – disruptive technologies.
• Dr Charles Merfield – alternate solutions to drenching and weed spraying.
• Ian Williams – how are our farm systems being changed in the name of “sustainability”.
• Richmond Beetham – the wakeup call from the Waikato!
• James Lockhart & Sully Alsop – Benchmarking, a fad or real tool for progress?
• Steve Maharey and Andrew Gibbs – international change and megatrends – what does it mean for NZ?
• Willie Falloon – what are we changing.

Matt Watson, from the Ultimate Fishing Show is the After Dinner Speaker.

There is a free bus service for any attendees from Rangitikei, Manawatu, and Tararua regions. Put the date in your diary.

Tickets are limited to 250 and they are selling fast $185/head – includes dinner and drinks.

To book your tickets talk to

Supporting digital innovation

We are delighted that Dr Amanda Lynn is confirmed as a key speaker at our Annual AgTech Conference LandWISE 2017: Are we ready for automation?

Amanda’s focus for this event is on moving “change” away from something that happens to us, to something we do as a natural part of our personal, business, economic and social development. This is called “purposive change” and she will explain how we create, adapt and integrate it.

When we talk about change we often do so without a clear idea of what is meant, and without recognition of our own—individual and collective—roles in adapting to change, or even catalysing it. 

We seldom talk about levels of change and processes of development; instead, getting caught in black and white terminology like “disruption” and forgetting that change is natural, incremental and evolutionary. 

Innovation is purposive change.  We can sometimes forget that purposive change is something we—people—are very, very good at.  And there’s a lot of us; resulting in a lot of purposive change. 

The Executive Director of the Innovation Partnership, and Chair of the Innovation Partnership Forum,  Amanda specialises in development. 

The Innovation Partnership is a not-for-profit Trust.  Sponsored by Google, Chorus and InternetNZ, the Innovation Partnership connects businesses, educators and Government entities to support digital innovation. 

In addition to working with the Innovation Partnership, Amanda leads her own contracting enterprise, Mandolin Associates, undertaking public speaking, research and advisory services, and through this has worked closely with some of New Zealand’s leading agriculture and aquaculture innovators. 

Amanda is a member of the New Zealand Association of Economists, and a Professional Member of the Royal Society of New Zealand.

Is the Juice worth the Squeeze?

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts, Head of Industrial Robotics at Cambridge Consultants UK is confirmed as a keynote speaker for our Annual Conference. LandWISE 2017: Are we ready for automation?

Cambridge Consultants is a world-class supplier of innovative product development engineering and technology consulting with more than 500 staff including scientists, mathematicians, engineers and designers.

Chris was one of the presenters at AgriTech-East’s Robotics Pollinator in October 2016, which Dan attended as part of his Trimble Foundation Study Trip investigating farm robotics.

“I was really impressed with Chris and his presentation. He worked clearly  and methodically through the issues that need very careful consideration.” 

In this presentation Chris will take a look at the prospects for robotic fruit harvesting, an issue of note in New Zealand as production levels rise and labour availability reduces.

Some of Chris’ questions:

  • Automation has existed in agriculture for decades: what’s new?
  • Why hasn’t it happened everywhere already?
  • Which tasks to automate?
  • What has to come together for a  successful harvesting robot?

Chris will address these questions and more at LandWISE 2017.

Field day – mesh crop covers for insect and blight control on potatoes

Tuesday 14 March 9.00 am – 11.00 am

FAR field site, North West corner of Springs and Ellesmere Junction Roads, Lincoln Google map.  Access off Springs Road, 300 m north of Roundabout.

Join FAR, Potatoes NZ, and the BHU Future Farming Centre for a roundup of results to date on the use of mesh crop covers for potato pest & disease control and the findings from the current field trial. 

  • How mesh covers are controlling blight
  • Mesh and tomato potato psyllid TPP control
  • Aphids and mesh
  • Potential yield boost from mesh due to improved microclimate

Get reports from the first two years trials here

Tomato potato psyllid (TPP) (Bactericera cockerelli) arrived in New Zealand in 2006 and has proved to be a important pest in a number of solanaceae crops, including potatoes.  While insecticides have proved effective for its management, this has caused a large increase in agrichemical use which is undesirable, and this option is not available to organic growers.  A ‘non-chemical’ means of controlling TPP is therefore desirable.  Mesh crop covers are such a non-chemical control: they are akin to fly screen for crops. They are extensively used in Europe for controlling a wide range of pests on an equally wide range of crops by both organic and mainstream growers. 


Prior research by the FFC made the serendipitous discovery that mesh crop covers are not only an effective barrier to TPP but they are also achieving significant potato blight (Phytophthora infestans and/or Alternaria solani) control.  A correlation has been shown between a reduction in UV a & b light levels and blight and also TPP symptoms. 

As mesh can keep out a wide range of potato insect pests, including those that are resistant to insecticides, such as tuber moth, it has the potential to be a single non-chemical solution to both insect pests and blight on potatoes.  As potatoes are the 4th most important food crop globally, with more grown in the developing world than the developed world, the potential global impact in terms of reduced agrichemical use is considerable.

However, potato aphids, mostly Myzus persicae, are penetrating the mesh, even mesh that has sufficiently small holes to exclude winged (and wingless) adults.  Once inside the mesh, their populations can explode due to the absence of beneficial insects, in effect, it is an unintentional experiment on the level of biological control of aphids. 

Mesh with sufficiently small holes to exclude immature aphid instars has been tested and resulted in a second serendipitous that the fine mesh appears to be modifying the under mesh micro-climate resulting in increased yields, while also improving blight control. 
Such very fine mesh has the potential therefore to completely control all potato insect pests, as well as blight and increase yield through entirely physical means. 

The field day will provide an opportunity to hear more about the research as well as viewing mesh on potatoes.