Farmers join forces with geeks in Manawatu Hackathon

Putting computer "geeks" and farmers in the same room might see sparks fly and hopefully solve technical farm issues, say Federated Farmers.

A hackathon will combine the two groups, including on a farm next month, in an initiative by Manawatu's Federated Farmers and the Building Clever Companies (BCC).

Federated farmers Manawatu/Rangitikei dairy chairman, Mat Hockensaid farmers would find new technology developed by the "techies" useful.

James Stewart Federated farmers Manawatu/Rangitikei president welcomes the best IT people for agri week.

He said BCC was drawing technology people together and they would talk to farmers to find out out what technology was needed to make farming easier.

Hocken said new apps could focus on areas such as as a real time pasture meter or software to help find water leaks as additional connectivity would mean that farmers might be able to use smart phones more readily.

"There are lots of practical things on farm, problems which can be solved.  We want farmers to get together with these techies to find some answers."

He said there was to be a 'soft opening' to the hackathon, with a pre-night function which would put farmers with computer people, later this month and a Microsoft rural manager from Asia would enlighten farmers and technical people.

Federated Farmers provincial president James Stewart said he doubted the technical people could come up with answers straight away.

"They might think on it and answers to farmers' needs could come later."

He said the technical people would come out "from behind their computers" to his farm for breakfast [on March 11].

"They will see a working farm and it might help open their minds to the issues grass-roots farmers have. The world is changing quickly as we move through yet another industrial revolution, this time the revolution is around data. We are seeing tech disrupting just about everything from the way we do business, to the way we communicate around the globe."

Stewart said farmers continued to grow grass, crops and farmed animals, but technology was a big part of farming systems and that was why the federation was involving computer people.

He said the concept of smart or connected farms was to have real solutions that helped farmers to make timely decisions..

"When you think of the fact that man went to the moon with less technology than the smart phones that sit in most of our pockets, we are already in an era of having a new generation of smart farm systems.

"Our farms are working with faster information and tools that help farmers who have more responsibility in providing safe product in an environmental aware society and in a growing legislative world. Much of this technology is also very important for New Zealand's image of having smart, innovative and responsible farmers who export all over the globe with high value product.

He said there was a lot of interest in agri tech particularly within Manawatu which had already had its mind opened around economic growth.

Stewart said the Rural Games from March 10-12 would bring rural New Zealand to an urban audience.

He said Federated Farmers dairy farmers would take part in the cow-pat throwing.

Other events were highland games , speed shearing and speed milking as well as 10000 sheep to run down the streets of Feilding, and shepherds and dog races.

More agricultural events would follow the Rural Games the next week, including a sheep milking conference, future farms conference, future leaders discussion and three days of Central Districts Field days.

"We should take regional pride in our farming and our research here in Palmerston North," said Stewart. "It is leading edge. We have the Fonterra Research Centre, Massey University, Food HQ to name just a few." 

The official opening of the hackathon would be during an agri-week from March 13 to March 18.

 - Stuff

Dave Craig