Emerging farm tech in New Zealand
In the past, there wasn’t a lot of venture capital in the agriculture industry. Compared with other industries, farming just didn’t appear ‘sexy’ enough to investors.
Well, that’s starting to change in a big way. People are realising that there are some huge opportunities for innovation in farming, and it’s New Zealanders that are leading the way.
One trend that’s spurring innovation is the rise in technology. New advances have been made in other industries, and smart inventors and entrepreneurs are taking that technology to agriculture.
Today I wanted to talk about two New Zealand start-ups that are making an impact: Halter and ProTag. I’ll give a brief rundown of what these companies do and why I’m excited about them
Halter – Move your cattle from your smartphone
This company has been pretty big in the news lately. Halter produce solar-powered collars for dairy cows. These collars track stock movement, check the health of the cows, and even guide them around the farm.
The collars use vibrations and sounds to direct the cattle. You can set up virtual fences, so they won’t cross over certain areas, even if you don’t have a single post in the ground. Some farmers have actually been taking out their fences because the technology works so well.
It’s a pretty amazing product with a lot of possibilities. The obvious benefit is how much time it saves. If you can just pull out your iPhone and direct a herd to come to the shed, then you’ve already saved yourself a lot of work. On average, farms can save about 20 hours a week with Halter.
The devices monitor the health of the animals as well, so you can track if they’re on heat, if they’re spending too much time sleeping, or if they are slower than usual.
Now, all that smart technology is interesting, but it won’t do much good if the collars break all the time. Luckily these devices are incredibly robust. They test them out by doing all sorts of things to them, like even chucking them in concrete mixers. From what I hear, not one has broken on a farm yet.
Recently Halter got a 32-million-dollar investment from a venture capital company. This has given the company more flexibility to expand. They were solely working with farms in the Waikato region, but from November onwards, they’ll be expanding out into Canterbury.
I don’t have an affiliation with this company – I’m just an honest fan of what they are doing. If this technology becomes widely used, then there are so many possibilities for where it can go.
Interested in learning more? Check them out here.
ProTag – Like a Fitbit for your stock
Another start-up in this space is ProTag.
I’ve heard the ProTag product described as being like a Fitbit, but for your cattle. It goes on one of the cow’s ears just like a regular ear-tag would.
The ‘ProTag’ ear tag continuously tracks each animal’s health and location. It will know when and where they have been grazing, sleeping or running. All this info gets sent to the cloud which monitors whether or not an animal is at risk of getting sick, is coming on heat, or may be lame. What’s also exciting is that from the location insights, individual cow grazing habits can be analysed which can then help to inform pasture dry matter estimates.
A big issue with this sort of technology in the past has been power usage...
What’s the point of having some advanced health and location tracking device on your stock if the battery dies after a few days? Well, the ProTag ear tag has been designed so the GPS and cloud system uses minimal power, so the devices work for at least 5 years and can be reused between cows.
ProTag is still a really new company, (they don’t even have a full website yet). However, the company is already getting a lot of positive attention. ProTag won the ‘Earth’ category in the recent Microsoft’s Imagine Cup, making them one of four finalists for the overall prize. That’s a pretty big achievement to even get that far, as ProTag had to go up against thousands of competing teams from all over the world.
The company was started by two engineering students at Massey University. They’ve got a passion for farming and are keen to make things easier for our farmers around the country. Want to find out more?
You can check out their new landing page here.
Keep moving, or risk dying.
Traditions are important, but at the same time, we need to keep growing.
There’s a lot of pressure facing our industry. With farming, there are always risks to do with weather, international markets, and exporting to other countries… but now farmers are having to deal with an increasingly hostile government at home.
With the waterways policy and the ute tax, Kiwi farmers are getting burdened with more and more regulations that are choking the industry. One way to fight back is to lobby, to protest, and to vote for people who support agriculture, but equally important, if not more so, is to become more effective and innovative.
That’s why I think we’re lucky to have companies like Halter and ProTag. By making farming easier, more effective, and safer, these companies are driving the industry forward.
Want to trial ProTag on your farm?
The team at ProTag have actually reached out to us to ask if any of our customers would be keen to give their product a go. They are trialling in the Waikato region, and they plan to expand to the rest of the country soon.
If you want to be a part of it, then fill out the poll here.