SMART Irrigation to help grow more crops

By: Andrew Curtis, IrrigationNZ CEO


Irrigating farmers to soon be growing ‘more crop per drop’ thanks to IrrigationNZ and the government’s Sustainable Farming Fund (SFF)

Minister for Primary Industries, Hon. Nathan Guy, announced the successful SFF projects this week, with IrrigationNZ awarded funding to develop its ‘SMART Tools and Tips for Irrigators’ project.

 

Making irrigation pay - Wairarapa workshop

IrrigationNZ CEO, Andrew Curtis, says the project will enable farmers and growers to make a significant improvement in irrigation efficiency and for potential irrigators to have access to comprehensive information on developing irrigation.

"We know from working with irrigators, and through analysing Farm Environment Plan audits, that environmental compliance, and particularly achieving Good Management Practise (GMP), are the biggest challenges faced by the sector. The Smart Tools and Tips project will be instrumental in helping irrigators achieve impending GMP regulatory requirements, while at the same time improving their yield quality and quantity and minimising their operating costs."

Andrew estimates $1.5bn in farm gate value could be created from the successful implementation of Irrigation GMP and this project "has a significant role in helping to achieve this".

He adds, "The SMART Tools and Tips project complements the investment government has already made in irrigation infrastructure development and modernisation to get ‘new water’ to the farm gate. It also supports the investment they’ve made in Freshwater Management, ensuring New Zealand’s freshwater continues to support a full range of community values."

Irrigating farmers were coming under increased scrutiny around their water use efficiency and the SMART project would provide them with the knowledge and practical tools to be more efficient, without impacting growth, productivity, and reliability of supply. "Farmers and growers make a significant investment in irrigation infrastructure, but in order to benefit from that investment, they need to really understand how to maximise its use and efficiency. The SMART project will give farmers and growers practical tools to help them make a difference in terms of efficiency, productivity, and environmental outcomes."

The project attracted $294,000 and will enable IrrigationNZ to work with a range of irrigator user groups to understand the barriers and benefits to the uptake of Irrigation GMP, and then develop programmes and strategies to overcome the barriers and build on the benefits. It will also enable IrrigationNZ to convert its current suite of ‘traditional’ knowledge resources and training into an e-learning format.

"Farmers and growers are busy people and getting them off-farm for workshops can be a challenge. Having all of our key resources available online will ensure they can develop an informed and clearer understanding of how to operate within new GMP regulatory requirements. Ultimately, it will increase their efficiency gains, increase skills, and capability and improve sustainability and reliability of supply."

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