Satellite service proves popular


A new satellite service provided by a major player in Waikato’s agribusiness sector is seeing healthy uptake from its target users.

The service provides readings of farm pasture cover, available the next day, as technology change becomes increasingly important to dairying development.

LIC’s SPACE service is based on daily satellite imaging of individual farms, with visualisations and data emailed to the farmer the next day.

Since it was rolled out, starting in March-April, one in three farmers has taken up the six-week trial offer, and one in three of those has then migrated to the subscription service.

That equates to one in nine Waikato dairy farmers using the service to measure their pasture cover, either on its own or in conjunction with other methods.

“We’re really pleased with how it’s gone in its first year and the response from farmers has been really positive,” SPACE business unit manager Rebecca Dalrymple said.

Rebecca Dalrymple says the response has been “really positive”.

“If you look at other technologies when they’re released, uptake normally isn’t quite as fantastic in the first year, so it has gone really well for us.”

The satellite’s technology allows sections as small as 3m by 3m to be scanned, though images cannot be obtained through cloud cover.

“If there is a cloud in the way we can’t get useful data but the beauty of satellites going across every day is we’re not permanently cloudy, so you can get images relatively regularly,” Dalrymple said.

The service has about 1200 users across six regions so far, with the rest of the country to be added in stages.

She points to three major benefits: the time that a farmer can save, the fact that entire paddocks are captured, not just samples, and that there is no human factor.

“The benefit of using SPACE as opposed to some of those other alternative tools is that it takes up very limited amounts of a farmer’s time, it gives them an opportunity to do something else with their time.”

Because consistency is important to pasture measurement, some farmers continue using their original method, while adding SPACE.

“It’s really fascinating to see how many people are willing to give this a go and then find a way to incorporate it into their system.”

The focus now is on rolling it out throughout the country. LIC’s target is market is dairy, but beef and sheep farmers could also use the technology.

“We haven’t had any major hiccups, we are learning about it as we go and I fully expect we’ll continue to learn about it because it is quite cutting edge technology. It is quite genuinely at the forefront and that means we don’t know it all,” Dalrymple said.

“The thing with SPACE is it’s new technology and 10 years ago it wasn’t available in New Zealand.

“The way the industry is going it is leveraging technology increasingly every day, and this is one technology available to farmers.”

She said the potential is there for it to measure more than pasture cover.

“It’s exciting technology and the applications for it are quite extensive.


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