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Improved digital connectivity boosts efficiency

Productivity and efficiency have increased at Clibborn Farms due to advances in technology, including a stronger internet connection

The 355-hectare Methven family farm is now into its third generation, with Sus Palmer and husband Dale serving as directors alongside Sus’s dad Rod Clibborn.

Rod, 73, is happy to see his daughter and her young growing family of three children taking the mixed cropping property into the future, having little enthusiasm for today’s endless requirements of monitoring and recording.

Rod took over the farm from his father who had expanded from an initial 100 acres allocated by the government as a war rehabilitation block in the 1940s. He continues to put in a full working week and meets regularly with fellow directors to consult on how the business is going.

Sus retains the family tradition of providing the day’s main meal at lunch for all on site, whether it be family, workers, contractors, shearers, agents or visitors.

She also manages the office and relies on a satellite internet connection as there is no copper or fibre network in the rural area. Sus finds it generally reliable, aside from weather interference.

“We switched to a new provider and we’re on a $60 per month plan which is reasonable. If we have a lot of wind or bad weather, it can disrupt the connection.

“It’s come a long way, considering 10 years ago we could not even get dial-up here,” Sus says.

“But it’s difficult to see how well connected we will be, when we might require it much more in 10 years’ time.”

Sus says that while many compliance changes have been introduced in the agricultural sector, the government has not kept up by making sure farmers have reliable internet.

“We need a reliable internet connection to provide the required data.”

At Clibborn Farms, crop paddock records and projections including yields, irrigation, fertiliser and chemical rates, are kept in ProductionWise, a cloud-based application. The software is provided free by the Foundation for Arable Research (FAR) to its members.

Data for stock, stock movements, animal health, health and safety, digital maps of the farm and a timeline of activities are also kept in the cloud, using FarmIQ. Dale and Sus and their full-time staff member have iPhones, so they can connect while out in the field and log their activity and observations.

When it comes to on-farm irrigation, having a strong internet connection is essential. The farm’s centre pivots are operated via the cloud, where variables such as application rate are determined in line with field data.

Clibborn Farms uses a cloud-based accounting software programme ensuring streamlining of financial activities from invoicing to budgeting. The bank manager and accountant can log into the programme enabling them to keep up with transactions.

Sus says thorough record-keeping is essential for accountability and all the cloud-based software programmes used on the farm help when submitting information for their Farm Environment Plan (FEP).

“We find because we are quite vigilant with keeping on top of our records, it makes the auditing process much easier.”

Keeping such up-to-date records boosts efficiency and cuts down on office time which in turn increases the farm’s productivity and profitability.

“It’s vital to have excellent record keeping so you can prove what you’re doing on-farm. We’re the guardians of this land so we want to make sure it’s in great condition.”

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