Cheese without the cow, synthetic meat, robotics and gene editing were among the topics discussed at the inaugural Grow 2019 Agri Summit last week in Christchurch.
"It triggers a thought process and makes you think about the impact your operation is having on the environment," he says. "I have started making changes which will make a difference to my farm over the long term."
Cairns has bought soil moisture monitors to help him better decide when to irrigate, he has started using Production Wise, a free online crop management system provided by FAR.
"Through the FEP process I saw I needed to do more to measure soil moisture levels. This wouldn't have happened without the FEP.
"Applying the right amount of water in the right place at the right time is important. Given that we're paying a charge for water delivery, any amount we don't use is a saving for us and for the environment."
After completing two FEPs and doing the auditing process, Cairns advises farmers to make sure their records are up-to-date.
"It takes a while to get your records organised but if you're using a good system you should have everything you need."
Aqualinc soil scientist Glen Treweek says the FEP audit process assesses whether farmers are managing well.
"Initially most farmers feel apprehensive, but it's really just a chat around the kitchen table. I look at their records and systems then we go for a walk around the farm to see how they're doing."
For those farmers who are shareholders in irrigation schemes there is often help available to make the FEP and audit process easier.
Irrigo Centre environmental manager Eva Harris has assisted 171 Barrhill-Chertsey Irrigation and Acton Farmer's Irrigation Co-operative shareholders to complete FEPs.
Harris says most farmers regard completing FEPs and audits as aspects of a continuous improvement.
"Most farmers see environmental sustainability as essential to passing on a solid business to the next generation."