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New Zealand Invests in Cost-Saving Biosecurity App to Protect Rural Sector

The government is strengthening New Zealand’s biosecurity system with investments in biosecurity technology to support the rural sector’s economic security, the Agriculture Minister, Damien O’Connor, announced earlier.

The government is investing $4 million over four years from the Ministry of Primary Industries’ Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures Fund (SFF Futures) to expand a biosecurity readiness and response app developed by a private company. The biosecurity software uses data from a range of sources to map out rural interactions and potential disease pathways in a much faster way than the country has ever had to date, which could save New Zealand hundreds of millions of dollars by helping the speed of response.

O’Connor noted that the investment along with contributions from the private company will lead to quick scale-up and adoption by the sector. The more farms that use the app, the more effectively and accurately the government will be able to manage future biosecurity risks.

As a trading nation and one with an abundance of unique plants and wildlife, biosecurity is fundamental to economic security, O’Connor stated. Primary sector exports are supporting the growth of the economy, which is bigger than before COVID-19. Therefore, the government is continuously improving systems to stop incursions from occurring.

The application began in 2016 as a visitor-management and health and safety tool, providing a simple digital check-in to keep track of farm visitors. It has since evolved into a comprehensive operations software for all rural sectors, including viticulture, horticulture, agriculture, and contracting businesses servicing the rural sector. It is used on over 14,000 properties with wide use in the kiwifruit sector and strong traction in the viticulture sector. The funding will support the application to grow these further while continuing to develop algorithms and technology in collaboration with some of the world’s top data scientists.

The foundation of New Zealand’s economy is the export of agricultural commodities. To aid the development of this sector, the country is pushing to digitise operations, reducing human error and accelerating productivity. In April, the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) set aside a budget from SFF Futures to support digital farm environment plans (dFEP). MPI is the agency that takes care of the country’s major industries, including farming and fishing.

Food and farming systems are faced with both challenges and opportunities in food security, climate, and environmental impact. Digital agriculture or ‘smart farming’ represents a set of tools to enhance practices for the benefit of farmers and consumers. Smart farming can help provide foundations to build responsible production and consumer systems across primary industries.

FEPs are a pivotal tool to identify and act on environmental risks on-farm and demonstrate progress on environmental objectives. Its goal is to build export value by satisfying global consumer expectations. ICT solutions are at the heart of this research. It aims to fast-track the delivery of a digital solution for farm environment plans. As a result, farmers and growers will be able to share environmental compliance data through the same toolsets that are used for regular farm management tasks.

 

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