PA17 – Tri-Conference on Precision Agriculture

16th – 18th October 2017, Claudelands, Hamilton 

Hosted by the Precision Agriculture Association of New Zealand (PAANZ), the tri-conference is aimed at farmers, growers, scientists, rural professionals, students and engineers, as well as those interested in resource management and the development and application of science and technology in the primary sector.

As its name suggests, the tri-conference has three conferences within a conference:

  • the 7th Asian-Australian Conference on Precision Agriculture
  • the inaugural Asian-Australian Conference on Precision Pastures and Livestock Farming
  • the Digital Farmers and Grower 2017

Delegates can move between these to create a programme that best suits.

The Asian-Australian Conferences are research intensive, the Digital Farm and Grower focused more on practical uses and featuring farmers using smart technologies.

Below there are short profiles of the international profile a sample of the international speakers presenting at an international tri-conference in Hamilton in October: PA17 – The International Tri-Conference for Precision Agriculture 2017 (15-18 October).

Registration is open now and the conferences will run concurrently over 16-18 October and feature a wealth of presentations from internationally-renowned speakers. Topics include precision pastures, precision livestock farming, robotics, site-specific farming and data management. There will also be sessions discussing the application of precision agriculture along the value-chain and its role in environmental and resource management.

Here is a sample of some of the international experts presenting at PA17…

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.


For you chance to hear these and other internationally recognised experts, register here for PA17.

Interest in the conference from NZ and overseas is strong so don’t delay booking your place at PA17 in Hamilton, 15-18 October.

Onions NZ Research Seminar and AGM

2017 Research Seminar, AGM & Dinner

Onions New Zealand warmly invites all growers, exporters and the wider onion industry to come together before the main harvest commences to the Research Seminar, AGM and Dinner. The Research Seminar has a number of speakers addressing future  opportunities as well as addressing current concerns.

When: 1:30 pm, 18th October 2017
Where: Indian Association Hall, 59 Ward St, Pukekohe
(in the back room)
Cost: Free due to funding from ONZ & our sponsors contributions 

RSVP is Mandatory by Wednesday 11 October.
Email James Kuperus, send a letter, call or text James with the number of people attending from your organisation.

Programme details available here.

By now all Onions New Zealand members should have received a formal invitation to attend the 2017 Research Forum, AGM and Dinner. If your organisation has not please contact James Kuperus. 



Electric Weeding Demonstrations

In conjunction with Kazel Cass at Hotgrass, we have a couple of electric weeding demonstrations coming up. So if you’re interested in non-herbicide non-mechanical weeding, get along for a personal encounter.

Option 1: Gisborne
  • 9am – 10 am
    Wednesday 6 December
  • At first car park going up Queens Drive, Titirangi Domain
    (Kaiti Hill), Gisborne
Option 2: Hastings
  • 1:00 – 2:00 pm
    Monday 11 December
  • Centre for Land and Water
    21 Ruahapia Rd, Hastings

General enquiries:
Kazel Cass ( or 021 033 2428)

Hotgrass uses the RootWaveTM Pro Electrothermal Weeder technology designed and manufactured by RootWave in the UK. They suggest this is:

  •  Sustainable, using a generator it uses a fraction of fuel required for thermal (steam, hot water) weed control.
  • Organic, the only input is electricity.  No need to carry tonnes of water, or toxic agri-chemicals
  • Effective, trials in the UK show it is effective against some of the toughest weeds because it gets down to the root of the problem.  It is able to control weeds that are resistant to herbicides
  • Manoeuvrable, because the device has a small footprint, and doesn’t require any water, it can be loaded onto small utility vehicles

Charles Merfield, head of the BHU Future Farming Centre, has reviewed electric weeding. His very detailed review is here. Worth your time reading too.

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.

Great DDT Muster

Don’t miss this chance to rid your property of DDT!

Sent to LandWISE subscribers on behalf of 3R

We’re urging farmers and other users of agrichemicals and pesticides to check their sheds and chemical stores for DDT or other banned pesticides as The Great DDT Muster does a final sweep of the country.

The Great DDT Muster is a nationwide campaign for the collection and disposal of Persistent Organic Pollutants, referred to as POPs.

We’ve been running the Muster for two years now and have collected around 10,000 kg of chemicals, but we believe there are still more POPs out there.

These include DDT, Lindane, Dieldrin, Chlordane, Aldrin and other pesticides which were in widespread use in rural New Zealand in the 1940s to 1970s. 

While POPs haven’t been sold or used in NZ for many years due to known harmful impacts on health and the environment, some properties still have POPs stored, either not knowing what they are, what to do with them, or being unwilling to pay for collection.

The Great DDT Muster is your best, and possibly last chance, to get rid of these pesticides for free.

Bookings close 31 October 2017




You can also call 0508 374 768 for more information. 

Even if you are unsure what your chemicals are, it’s safer to give us a call than to do nothing!

Please return booking forms to or 3R Group, PO Box 1216, Hastings 4156. Please note, online bookings are done through 3R Group’s ChemCollect service.

How does the Muster work?

Bookings and collections are managed by 3R Group Ltd, programme manager for the Muster.  Bookings made are strictly confidential and individual booking information will not be shared with third parties. 

We need to receive your booking before the end of October 2017. We will then be in touch to confirm details. Other chemical types can be booked at the same time but these may be subject to collection fees. Applicable fees will be quoted prior to any collection activity. Collections will be carried out during November and December 2017.

The Great DDT Muster has received financial support from the Waste Minimisation Fund, which is administered by the Ministry for the Environment.

So, what are POPs?

POPs are chemicals that persist in the environment and are known to cause adverse effects to health. They are bio-accumulative, building up in the tissue of living things, and can be passed between species through the food chain or from mother to baby. 

Among other effects, POPs have been identified as hormone disruptors which can alter normal function of endocrine and reproductive systems in humans and wildlife.  Cardiovascular disease, cancer, obesity and diabetes have been linked to POPs. Exposure to POPs during pregnancy has been linked to developmental defects in the resulting offspring.

It is illegal to use, store or discharge POPs into the environment, so this is a great chance for you to dispose of POPs safely and for free!

If you’d like to know more, visit for full details of the project.

Don’t miss out, book here today!

LandWISE Board Update

Revised Constitution Accepted

Following the AGM decision to revise our Constitution it has been submitted and accepted by Charities. You can download it here>

A major change was to the Board make up, and reducing the size of the Board to 5 elected members supported by the Manager.

Current Board Members:
  • John Evans – Tregynon Farm, Canterbury (CHAIR)
  • Mark Burgess – Commercialisation, University of Auckland
  • John van der Linden – Vineyards Systems Manager, Villa Maria
  • Simon Wilcox – Operations Manager Supply, A.S. Wilcox
  • Oliver Knowles – Precision Ag Specialist, Ballance AgriNutrients
  • Dan Bloomer


The new Board met at the LandWISE MicroFarm in May after the Conference, and again in September at A.S. Wilcox in Pukekohe. We greatly appreciate being hosted and the opportunity for Board Members to better understand the business and some of the issues it faces.

LandWISE Board at A S Wilcox, being shown around the packing and despatch areas by Simon

We have submitted project proposals on drainage for permanent crops and good nitrogen management for vegetables to the Sustainable Farming Fund and wait on the outcome. We have also responded to an Expression of Interest to review new high precision GPS/GNNS signals that we believe can radically change some important tasks on New Zealand farms.

Conference 2018 -Tech for Timely Actions

23, 24 May 2018, Havelock North

Planning for the 2018 Annual Conference is underway, so if you have ideas or requests, please contact us. We’d love your input.

Membership Subscriptions

At the AGM we agreed to leave subscriptions at the same level, where they have sat for a number of years. But the Board has determined that the free third member offer (originally introduced for one year) will now not be offered. Board members feel the fees are very low and encourage you to join more people depending on the size of your business.

Members’ subscription invoices will be sent out soon.


MicroFarm Update

Some important “Thank you”s:

For the last three seasons, Gerry Steenkamer and family have supported our onion growing and the OnionsNZ Sustainable Farming Fund project on Benchmarking Variability. Without their help we wouldn’t have even had a crop and seen the variability in it in the first place. Since then we’ve been dependent on them for prep and planting, harvest and marketing the crops we’ve produced. We are extremely grateful for that. Many, many thanks Gerry, Jenny, John and all the staff who have done great work for us. It has been a privilege.

This year Apatu Farms have come on board to help us with our final year of the Benchmarking project. So, many thanks too Mark and Paul and your staff who are helping us this season. We especially appreciate fitting our very small but time consuming job into your schedule during a very difficult planting season. With seven different varieties planted, it took even longer than normal, but we are thrilled with the job done.

Two years ago we borrowed a tractor from Mike Glazebrook for a few months. After two seasons, we’ve returned it but also thank Mike and Nigel for their help with MicroFarm activities. The main role of this machine was carrying our sensors, then towing a small spray trailer over our onions. It was an ideal fit, but is now needed again at its true home! Thanks Mike and BioRich.

To replace the BioRich tractor we’ve picked up an older John Deere 2030. To fit the Apatu Farms standard bed we’ve been getting the wheels out to run on 2 m wide beds. That took a little work, but it’s now all go.

This project is a collaboration with Plant and Food Research for OnionsNZ with support from the MPI Sustainable Farming Fund.

Benchmarking Onions Year 3

The final year of our collaborative project with Plant and Food Research for OnionsNZ with support from the MPI Sustainable Farming Fund is underway.

This season we are linking with regional agronomists and farmers in Pukekohe/Pukekawa, Hawke’s Bay and Canterbury to further test the Management Action Zone tools.

One of the Pukekawa crops is most advanced and our mapping there starts very soon. Our aim is to map crops at 3 leaf stage, use that to identify canopy zones and take photos in each zone for detailed analysis.

The ground area calculated from the photos is added to plant population counts and run through a crop development model on to predict final yield in each zone. The model also identifies if population of plant growth rate are causing lower than expected development, and therefore yield.

This field is almost ready for the first mapping exercise. We are somewhat nervous because the weeds can cause errors: green is green! Sometimes we can filter the weeds out of the images, but if there is very little difference between weed and onion, it is not yet possible.

The MicroFarm crop has started to emerge in recent days. We are keeping an eye on this to see what impact emergence has later.

Interoperability for Agriculture

Palmerston North, Friday 8th December 2017

From Landcare Research:

Few activities are more tied to location and the geospatial landscape than agriculture. Agricultural businesses, research and policy makers rely on quantitative data about soils, water, weather, inputs, productivity, outputs, and markets.   This summit will tackle the big questions on big data for agriculture in New Zealand and globally: how to make it really work for farmers, policy-makers, markets and consumers?

Presentations and workshops will cover

  • Precision Agriculture
  • Environmental Data and Information
  • The Internet of Things and new sensor technologies
  • Applications and mobile
  • Privacy, security and protections
  • Maps and models  – current and future
  • Collaborations  and standards in action

Join international geospatial experts along with local innovators in Palmerston North for this one day Summit.

Date Friday 8th December 2017
Time 9.00am – 4.00pm
Agenda See here>
Enquiries Christine Harper

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.