Wednesday, 16 August 2017 12:55

Fert co-op pushes ‘smarter farming’

Written by  Pam Tipa
Ravensdown chief executive Greg Campbell. Ravensdown chief executive Greg Campbell.

Farming today is different from even five years ago, says Ravensdown chief executive Greg Campbell.

Big challenges lie ahead in reducing environmental impacts, but it is a positive opportunity to reset the sector’s position, he told Dairy News.

Farming must ensure it is seen as a trusted and leading sector, and Ravensdown can contribute to this in the services, agronomy products, science and technology it provides.

“Some farmers are pushing forward, others are just starting the journey. I don’t see any farmers, contrary to urban newspapers, wanting to see degradation of their capital or their natural environment,” he says.

Ravensdown is focusing on ‘Smarter Farming for a Better New Zealand’ consisting of high quality products and particularly new agronomy products, providing strong expertise in market and new technologies.

“All that assists farmers with reducing their environmental impact in farming and in optimising, maintaining and increasing the value they extract from their land,” he says. “So it’s a big challenge ahead and we are [adapting] to meet that challenge.”

The public wants greater transparency by farmers doing their best to reduce environmental impacts.

“We want to stand shoulder to shoulder with our shareholders and farmers in meeting that challenge.

“All our innovation is focused on this but the environmental team is a large growing part of our business where we have highly trained, educated and competent people to assist our farmers in meeting their social licence.”

Campbell says the co-op’s environmental consultancy, which helps farmers to mitigate their impacts and work within regulatory frameworks, is its fastest-growing service.

Farmer demand for N-Protect, which is the only Fertmark-certified urease inhibitor in New Zealand, shows farmers share Ravensdown’s concerns about reducing nitrogen loss to the atmosphere. It advises using N-Protect only in conditions where it gives a material advantage.

New technology called HawkEye was introduced to replace Smart Maps and help farmers assess and alter their nutrient levels on paddocks on an easily understood and readily shared map.

The Civil Aviation Authority has approved the co-op upgrading its topdressing planes to the precision application service called IntelliSpread.

“As this service is phased in, it will enable greater control and accuracy of topdressing planes because the computer-controlled hopper doors adjust to deliver the fertiliser where it’s needed. Research released in February showed that on average 9% of hill country land assessed was non-productive or environmentally sensitive which means IntelliSpread could avoid those areas. Compared to blanket rate applications of fertiliser, this targeted rate application was estimated to save on average $43/ha after 10 years.”

Campbell says this year’s results show a continuation of the good performance of the last three or four years. “The balance sheet continues strong and the value of the company keeps increasing,” he says.

Ravensdown is paying a total annual rebate of $45/tonne following a third year of strong results.

The 10% increase in rebate on purchased products compared to last year was due to continued balance sheet strength, growing market share and a profit before tax and rebate of $51 million from continuing operations.

Ravensdown chairman John Henderson says the strong performance is now part of a consistent pattern Ravensdown has established.

“Strong years in 2015 and 2016 meant at the start of the last financial year we were able to set ambitious targets to invest in infrastructure, improve market share and develop new technology,” says Henderson.

“For the third year in a row our targets were achieved and we will remain in the black after rebate and taxes.”

Sales volumes were up by 2% as the co-op gained new customers butt revenue fell 5% to $627 million because of price reductions.

For farmers who bought solid fertiliser before May 31, 2017, $20 of the total rebate has been in their bank accounts since June 9. For fully paid-up shareholders, the remaining $25/tonne will be paid this month.

 

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