Netfarmer.com joins farm portal lineup

In what might be a sign of prosperous times for the country's farmers, the number of web-based farm portals continues to blossom, with the launch yesterday of Netfarmer.com.

In what might be a sign of prosperous times for the country's farmers, the number of web-based farm portals continues to blossom, with the launch yesterday of Netfarmer.com.

Yesterday, Netfarmer.com announced that it had joined RD1.com and Fencepost.com in offering a package of e-commerce, chat and information services to the country's farmers.

But while RD1.com and Fencepost.com are both ventures staged by the country's largest dairy companies - the New Zealand Dairy Group and Kiwi Co-op respectively - Netfarmer is trumpeting its independence.

Netfarmer chairman, former Federated Farmers president, Malcolm Bailey, says Netfarmer is different from other Internet based farm servicing companies because it allows individual farmers to shop around for the best deal, by inviting competitive quotes from a wide range of farm supply companies.

"Netfarmer is independent from all of the supply companies and acts as an 'honest broker' to obtain the best available deal. No other internet based company is set up to do this for New Zealand's farmers," says Malcolm Bailey

Netfarmer creator Michael Burtscher says he wanted a system that would allow farmers like himself "to spend more time on my farm - concentrating on what makes me money."

Apart from its tender and quoting system Netfarmer offers such features as financial services, free email and a recruitment service.

Meanwhile, RD1.com says it has discovered that in many cases it is the women on farms who are taking up and using the internet. CEO Neal Murphy says the finding reflects the fact that "women are true partners in farming enterprises in New Zealand, with a crucially-important part of running a farm. They're very often the book-keeper, administrator and researcher for the business.

"Women have always been central to decision-making on many farms. Anecdotal evidence also points to women being the greater user of the web for decision support, at this stage in the development of the web at least."

The company has responded this month by running a series of chat forums featuring rural women - from former Dairy Group director Hillary Webber and reborn organic farmer Charmaine Pountney.

RD1.com says it now has 8000 subscribers, many brought over from its Anchormart procurement service, and the $10 million Fencepost project is claiming 10,000 visitors a month.

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