ANZ Bank has released a set of farm management tools, available online free to anyone who wants to play with some figures related to farming.
The release of the tools, described by ANZ as farm budget planners, comes close on the heels of the release by BNZ of Ag-Benchmark, a product which analyses farmers' financial results for three years and compares them with those of other farmers in their district and nationwide.
Peter Nation, ANZ's northern district rural manager, says ANZ's product is different, as it is web-based and farmers need only to log on and fill in figures to get performance measures of their operation, as well as forecasts for the future.
"It's more interactive [than Ag-Benchmark]."
Nation describes the services, which offer tools for calculating budgets, the coming season and loan repayments as "value-added."
The tools also enable farmers to ascertain market trends, get information needed for financial reports and manage risk more accurately, he says.
"They don't replace cashflow software."
He believes uptake will be high, with the bank receiving a return on the development costs through building stronger relationships with clients and others who use the tools.
The lack of adequate internet access in some rural areas won't deter farmers from using the services, he says.
"A recent survey [of Southland and Otago farmers] showed 83% of farmers have PCs and 71% have modems."
He acknowledges many farmers nationwide are unable to get the standard 56Kbit/s dial-up access city dwellers enjoy.
ANZ is marketing the services via a direct mail campaign and an awareness drive with accountants in the provinces, he says.
Federated Farmers vice president and telecommunications spokesman Tom Lambie says the release of the products by the ANZ and by BNZ is timely.
"We've seen far greater use of computers and new management tools by farmers in the past three to four years."
The release of such tools highlights the need to find a solution to the problem of internet access, he says.
"It's not only that farmers want to use those tools, but we have a myriad of suppliers wanting to provide them."
The best hope for addressing the issue is the rural broadband network being built by Fonterra and the regional initiatives being supported by the Ministry of Economic Development, Lambie says.