Farming credibility demands data


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New Zealand farmers will need to increasingly provide evidence of good on-farm practices if they’re to continue being competitive in the global market.

This was one of the common themes to come out of a recent study trip to Europe, taken by Adrian and Pauline Ball and funded by the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust. The couple were named last year’s National Ambassadors for Sustainable Farming and Growing in the Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

Adrian said New Zealand farmers can be good at telling their product’s story, however there’s a growing demand to back those stories up with credible data.

“Overseas, we saw a lot of data being collected, leading to an approach where farmers are showing rather than telling,” he said.

For example, a meat processing plant in Amsterdam closely tracks the production of veal so it can prove to customers that animals have been well treated well.

“By using GPS tracking, and measuring stress and temperature, they can credibly prove good animal welfare. We’ve just put a similar product into our own herd.”

Similarly, in Holland data is being gathered about the environmental footprint of individual products.

“Explaining the footprint of each piece of food is a big opportunity for New Zealand. We still focus on reducing total emissions while they’re giving the consumer a great reason to pay more for their products because they can show individual product emissions.

“We’ll certainly be trying to bring some of that thinking into our business.”

The Balls visited the Netherlands and Ireland during their trip and Adrian said farmers there are facing the same problems being seen in New Zealand around freshwater, animal welfare, nutrients and greenhouse gas emissions. He felt that New Zealand was ahead of Ireland in terms of finding solutions to some of these problems.

“For example, their dairy farmers were talking about expansion and not really thinking about the unintended consequences.

“We’re a fair way ahead of them, however we can still do a lot better.”

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