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Anderton: Opening of robotic dairy farm, Ashburton

24 September 2008 Speech

Opening of robotic dairy farm, Ashburton

Leaders and representatives of the diary industry, Craig Carr of Winslow Limited, ladies and gentlemen. It is also my pleasure to welcome Alexander Lely who has travelled from Holland to be with us.

My colleague Phil Goff is currently in the United States, walking the corridors of power, meeting with the decision makers, working on a free trade agreement between our two countries that could be worth a billion dollars to New Zealand.

The radio yesterday morning reported a Democratic congressional candidate from Wisconsin, with 24years experience in dairying, saying that there is no way the US dairy industry can compete with New Zealand.

He was, of course, thinking more about votes than trade policy, but I must admit that his comment made me feel proud as a New Zealander.

Proud that our small country on the other side of the world can punch well above its weight on the world stage.

Proud that the New Zealand dairy industry has a global reputation and is respected internationally for its long and successful record of innovation - innvoation that has made it so internationally competitive.

New Zealand has earned, through hard graft, innovation and ingenuity, a world-wide reputation for excellence in our primary products.

You will not find anyone more positive about the future of New Zealand agriculture than me.

There are dozens of examples of the New Zealand dairy industry's success with creating, adopting and adapting innovation, dating back to the late 19th century.

One example is Chew Chong, a visionary character, businessman and key figure in helping to develop the Taranaki region's dairy industry.

His operation pioneered the use of quality control in dairy production and developed the 'pound of butter'.

Another, of course, is refrigerated shipping which paved the way for New Zealand to export dairy products, and meat, to the other side of the world.
In more recent times, improved farm management practices, artificial insemination, and livestock genetics have revolutionised New Zealand's dairy industry.

July this year marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of Dr Campbell Percy McMeekan who was a great innovator, promoter of science and established a legacy for world-leading agricultural science research.

Dr McMeekan was a foundation student at Massey Agricultural College in 1928 who, as head of the Ruakura Research Station from 1943 to 1962, put Hamilton at the forefront of global developments in pastoral animal production.

McMeekan's driving motivation was to encourage farmers to adopt the best technologies science could offer.

Under McMeekan, farming practice formed the basis for experiments at Ruakura, and practical application on the farm became the guiding principle which still underpins New Zealand agricultural science to this day.

His 'Grass to Milk' systems made New Zealand famous for its dairy farming.
He placed great emphasis on dry matter production per hectare, which created a model for low cost dairy production and put New Zealand in the forefront of the world's dairy producers.

The turn-style rotary milking platform idea was invented by a New Zealander, Merv Hicks. Since the 1970s this technology has been adapted worldwide.
Kiwis are always on the look out for a better way of doing things. It's in our nature as a people.

But innovation is a global activity. We play our part by creating, adopting and adapting new and improved technologies. We take ideas and innovation from the world, and adapt it to our own needs and conditions.

Take the Lely robotic milking system we are celebrating today. This system started in Europe on a family-based farm. Optimum conditions for putting cows out to pasture in combination with robotic milking were determined through testing in Australia and Ireland.

This technology holds huge potential for our farmers to improve performance in areas such as productivity and animal health, and lifestyle opportunities for owner operators.

New Zealand is also a natural destination for the robotic fence movers, with our pasture-based dairy industry.
These robotic fence movers are solar powered and communicate by Bluetooth technology to ensure they move the same distances.

And trials have been done to test the robots' durability and resistance to New Zealand conditions on our country's more intensive pasture systems. There may also be a market for robotic fence movers in certain beef production systems in New Zealand, for instance, where cattle are fed intensively.

The Lely robotic dairy system demonstrates that agriculture is, indeed, a high-tech industry. It mixes the engineering feats of robotics with the ability to collect and manage data about individual animals.

The automated milking machines work by luring cows using feed or water, and then the cows are milked by the machine's arms as sensors detect the teats.

For a bloke like me who is just coming to grips with email, this is almost the stuff of science fiction. But it is science fact.

And government is leading investment in scientific innovation with the Fast Forward Fund that will lift the long-term science base, capability, environmental performance and global competitiveness of New Zealand's pastoral and food industries, to boost the living standards of all New Zealanders.

On top of the government's capital investment of $700 million over 10-15 years, industries and businesses in the pastoral and food sectors will also substantially increase their spending on innovation - beyond 'business-as-usual' investments - aiming overall to match the level of government's investment - culminating in a $2000 million science, research, and innovation fund for our food-producing primary sectors. This will be the largest single investment in industry development in New Zealand's history.

And no industry in New Zealand knows better the benefits of working together collectively than the dairy industry.

Taking a partnership approach to investment leverages the comparative advantage of New Zealand's largest sector and our natural resource base. At the same time it will generate spill over benefits that will enhance the growth of many of our other sectors.

It will help to connect New Zealand producers and manufacturers with both the demands of global markets and the scientists and researchers who can help develop solutions, to give New Zealand the best chance of using our strengths and resources to be world class and globally successful.

Dairy has a strong presence in New Zealand Fast Forward, with DairyNZ and Fonterra being cornerstone investors of New Zealand Fast Forward.

Innovation is a global activity. Clever ideas get turned into clever products, which are taken up and adapted by clever people.

Adaptation of the Lely robotic milking system and the Voyager robotic fence mover for use in New Zealand is a fine example of this: a product originating from the Netherlands being adapted for New Zealand's pasture-based dairy production.

Innovations like the Lely robotic products allow farmers to use labour in higher-value ways; increase the efficiency, productivity and sustainability of their farms; and enhance the welfare of their livestock.

Furthermore, automated animal handling systems like the Lely products fit well with other high-tech initiatives such as the National Animal Identification and Tracing (NAIT) project.

Everyone in this room knows that innovation is the cornerstone of our success.

It has built, and it builds on, New Zealand's competitive advantage of being one of the most efficient food producers in the world.

No one is more positive about our primary industries than I am.

Dairy is doing well, and with the commitment to the technologies of the future we have seen today, that success is certain to grow.

I'm sure if that congressional candidate had toured the Winslow operation with us today, he would have more than votes on his mind.

Thank you and best wishes for the future.

It is now my pleasure to introduce Mr Alexander Lely, global CEO and Managing Director of Lely.


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