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Bigger role for water companies in farm strategy

Bigger role for water companies in farm strategy

Irrigation companies have a bigger role to play in helping farmers make strategic decisions on land use, future innovation strategist Roger Dennis says.

Dennis is a key-note speaker at Agri Innovation in Ashburton on 2 May, held jointly by MHV Water,
Ashburton Lyndhurst Irrigation and Barrhill Chertsey Irrigation.

He says many organisations influence farmers, but none is more agnostic about how farmers use their land than the company that delivers their water.

“Water companies care deeply about the environmental effects of farming and the efficient use of water. They have no preference for what farmers produce as long as they meet the necessary environmental hurdles, which puts them in a prime, independent position to help farmers consider and address future trends,” Dennis says.

“Like many business people, farmers tend to make strategic decisions based on ‘micro trends’, and are influenced by groups with particular agendas. This can obscure more fundamental global trends that may ultimately have a greater effect on their land-use and livelihoods.

“Their strategic decision-making needs to focus on how water allows them to capitalise on macro changes in the world more generally, not simply on producing more of the status quo.”

Dennis says the need to challenge and support farmers’ strategic planning for land-use also reflects how much the New Zealand economy depends on topsoil.

“In essence, our national wellbeing depends on us applying our ‘top two inches’ to our top few inches of topsoil. If we don't then we’re in considerable trouble as a country.”

He says probably the best example of doing this successfully internationally can be found in the Netherlands.

“On average the amount of water required globally to grow a kilogram of tomatoes is 255 litres; in the Netherlands they’re now achieving this with just 11 litres thanks to advances in precision agriculture.”

Dennis says Agri Innovation is a chance to combine foresight and strategy to understand the opportunities for innovation.

“We need to ensure agriculture doesn’t go further and further down a particular path in pursuit of the answers without challenging core assumptions and historical precedents.”

Agri Innovation is on Wednesday 2 May 2018 from 1pm to 5pm at the Ashburton Trust Event Centre.

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