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New Zealand Manawatū Joint Dairy Research Facility Boosts On-farm Research

It’s on-farm research done where it is needed most: the farm. Work is close to completion on the Dairy 4 Farm after Massey University, New Zealand’s top ISO-certified university has partnered with AgResearch to boost on-farm research capability and facilities in the lower North Island. To note, AgResearch is a New Zealand government-owned research institute, engaged in biological science research and development for use in the pastoral sector.

ICT technology is right at the centre of it all. Moreover, there may not be a better way to do agriculture research than on a running farm. That means that while usual farm operations are happening, detailed research projects will be carried out at the new facilities at Dairy 4 Farm.

The facility will enable greater interaction between staff and students of Massey and AgResearch, while also providing scope for a range of independent trials to operate at any one time. Plus, the research farm’s location works in favour of research as it’s just adjacent to Massey’s Manawatū campus. Capacity-wise, it has approximately 600 spring calving cows and is the largest of the university’s two farms. Indeed, that should start the ball rolling.

The leading researcher from the academe affirms the importance of the farm. Professor Paul Kenyon, Head of Massey’s School of Agriculture and Environment, says the new facilities will enable detailed research projects on the farm to be carried out at the same time as usual operations.

The new facilities will boast two rotary milking platforms which will allow detailed research projects to take place alongside the farm’s daily operations. Other new facilities include a covered veterinary area for individual cow measurements and a multi-lane feed pad to enable differential feeding to various groups of cows. There will also be an effluent treating system, a data centre within the shed to store and manage research data, a teaching room and a biosecurity station.

– Professor Paul Kenyon, Head, Massey University School of Agriculture and Environment

AgResearch for its part sees the massive benefit of the collaboration. Dr David Pacheco, AgResearch Science Objective Leader and Principal Scientist, says it is rewarding to see the progress at the farm after the decision several years ago to invest with Massey in its development.

Researchers at the renewed Dairy 4 farm are hoping to find solutions to key issues facing New Zealand as a country. Some of these pressing issues which involve both pure and applied research are:

  • Environmental impacts of climate change
  • Greenhouse gas research
  • Animal nutrition and health
  • Biosecurity issues
  • Economic threats posed by food production

The Dairy 4 Farm is well known for its research into nutrient losses on heavy soils and recent collaborative work on partial housing systems for dairy cows. It has been operating for approximately 46 years and complements Massey’s Dairy 1 Farm – a 260 cow farm beside the Manawatū River.

Indeed, digital transformation should allow New Zealand to maximise its potential. This on-farm research is just one showcase of how digitisation can help make the biggest and most audacious projects on agriculture happen. To date, Aoteroa’s main income-generating industry is still agriculture.

Other areas are looking up in the country. The government’s recent foray into lithium mining is one example. When it does succeed, the country could be positioned as the planet’s green energy hub.

New Zealand is heavily supporting its tech sector knowing its importance. For starters, it invested in a massive marketing campaign to show the world its tech potential hoping to attract both outside capital infusion and manpower. Still, it will have to boost its workforce as a study showed over a million will need to do digital training next year, as reported on OpenGov Asia. Then again, the island nation has continually shown it is up to the task, per track record.

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