Fieldays is becoming the premier event for showcasing IT products and services to the agricultural sector.
Farm mapping and management software, financial packages specifically for farming and horticulture, data loggers, databases and Web sites were all on display at the 31st National Agricultural Fieldays held recently in Hamilton. Most of the solutions are locally developed and supported which means that the products will only get better and more focused.
Three packages, Endeavour2 from Masterton-based Computer Concepts and Systems and AgResearch, Farm Software Version 2 from Invercargills Landmark Mar-keting and FarmWorks, developed by the company of the same name in Feilding. All include mapping modules where farmers can import a scanned aerial photo of their property and paddocks and overlay vectors and intelligent symbols to track productivity, changes over time and manage planning exercises.
These packages also have facilities to track weather, keep track of stock, feed budgets and paddock production records. Two similar packages on display from Australia, Cattle Plus and Herd Magic, are more specific to livestock management.
Part and parcel of an agricultural solution is the financial component. Landmarks Farm Software has a built-in cash book function while Endeavour2 and FarmWorks have separate financial packages, Cash Manager and Phoenix Financial Management, respectively. These packages feature full accounting capabilities, GST, livestock reconciliation and cash management and are geared to agricultural production. Cash Manager has some 9000 users and a distribution network of 44 local dealers who also sell Endeavour2.
Feeding these systems is mostly a process of manual data entry but there is a growing trend towards automatic entry from remote data loggers. AP Harris GPSE from Christchurch has a range of remote sensors including the SkyLog 2000 Automatic Weather Station. With SkyLog, data such as temperature, wind, humidity, rainfall and pressure can be displayed in real time from a PC or the data can be downloaded in .CSV format and imported into one of the aforementioned farm management packages.
Other Harris data loggers include pH, water level, voltage and more. Each data logger is self-contained with a lithium battery and internal microprocessor. The loggers connect to the PC via a RS232 serial port and can display archived data in a var-iety of formats including tables and graphs.
Landcare continues to supply a wide range of environmental data and provided an excellent overview of soils and land digital information. The New Zealand Resource Inventory, presently being updated, is a nationwide polygon-based digital coverage with more than 100,000 map units consisting of descriptions of rock, soil, slope, erosion and vegetation. Scales vary. The National Soils Database is a point database with 1500 or so soil profiles based on field data collection. These data are ready for import into a GIS and can be used in conjunction with the mapping capabilities of the farm management packages.
The Internet was out in full force as well, with many vendors displaying signs with URLs boldly proclaimed. FarmIndex launched their site www.farmindex.co.nz at Fieldays. With sections on news, weather, health, real estate, research, classifieds and products and services, it has the potential to become a valuable agricultural resource.