Ravensdown has recorded a strong profit for the 2019-20 financial year.
The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has approved co-funding of $5.13 million for the seven-year Ravensdown "Transforming Hill Country Farming" PGP programme.
This amount will be matched by the fertiliser co-operative Ravensdown, making the overall base funding for the project $10.26 million.
The new PGP programme will combine remote-sensing of soil fertility on hills with GPS-guided aerial topdressing, to improve hill country productivity and reduce nutrient runoff.
The research partners are Massey University's Precision Agriculture Group and AgResearch. The Ravensdown programme expects to generate $120 million a year in economic benefits to New Zealand by 2030.
"This is an excellent example of harnessing modern technology to transform farming on hill country, which is facing some serious challenges," says Scott Gallacher, MPI deputy director-general.
"This research partnership will help enable hill country farmers to grow more pasture and increase returns, as well as reduce the environmental effects of fertiliser application," Ravensdown CEO Greg Campbell says.
The research will develop remote sensors which can scan for areas that need different amounts of fertiliser to other areas. A fertiliser plan can then be prepared and sent to the GPS-equipped topdressing planes.
"This combination of technology is a world-first. Innovations like these all add up to a great export story for New Zealand farming," says Professor Ian Yule of Massey University.
"New Zealand has been at the forefront of the development of the use of remote sensing in agriculture for the past 10 years and this project provides the opportunity to apply that technology directly to increasing production and farm profitability while improving environmental management in the hill country," says Professor Yule.
AgResearch will play a key role in the development of integrated systems, so the benefits will be captured by including the all-important precision application of nutrient by topdressing aircraft.