Thursday, 16 April 2020
Ploughing on with nutrient budgets
With consenting processes and environmental plans usually requiring a farm visit and face-to-face time going over farm maps, Ravensdown’s environmental team have had to innovate to get the job done.
Arron Hutton, Ravensdown Principal Consultant, says he and his team are currently working very closely with Irrigo in Canterbury, which represents a significant portion of the irrigated farms in Mid-Canterbury, through the Acton Farmers Irrigation Co-op Ltd, Ashburton Lyndhurst Irrigation Ltd, BCI Scheme and MHV Water Ltd.
While not all 650 farmers require a nutrient budget every year, Ravensdown is the leading provider of these to Irrigo’s shareholders.
“Ravensdown is one of the key providers of nutrient budgets where we have a memorandum of understanding. It’s important our shareholders are getting the level of service they need and are able to take ownership of the process. Working with Ravensdown makes it easier for everyone to ensure high quality relationships are maintained”, Eva Harris, Irrigo Environmental Manager says.
For the past five years, Ravensdown has completed nutrient budgets to assist Irrigo’s end-of-year compliance reporting to Environment Canterbury (ECan) and, regardless of COVID-19, this information is still required. The normal process is to collect the data needed for the nutrient budgets through meetings with several farmers per day at the Irrigo offices. With that option out, the start date to gather this information has been pulled forward to allow for the extra time it takes to do each farm’s nutrient budget.
“Normally we would host one to two-hour sessions with each farmer collecting the farm data and then we would do the Overseer® modelling back at our office. This year we’ve been adapting by using the phone and video tools like Zoom and Skype. The key difference is that the farmers would use maps to draw on and indicate where crops were or irrigation locations, which we can’t do now. Lots of farmers have different tech capabilities so trying to get the same information and make sure the participants understand what we’ve asked has been a challenge,” Arron says.
Arron and his team have facilitated the whole process from working with Irrigo to setting consultants up to get the work done remotely.
“Traditionally we start this process from Easter onwards to get all information collected by the end of June, but we’ve started earlier this year to meet the deadline in late August/early September, which gives Irrigo a week or so for questions before they submit to ECan in October/November.”
To ensure consistency, Arron is trying to utilise the same consultant that was working with the farmers last year as they have the knowledge of the farm and the person.
“While the data may not be as obtainable, we know the farms and farmers well because we’ve got years of experience working with them and a number of years of historical data to compare and contrast with. While it’s not as efficient as it normally would be, we’re confident we can deliver on time with the same quality of product.”
The key to success for Arron has been constant communication with Irrigo and being flexible to adapt to the changing situation. They’ve completed ten projects so far, which are going out to farmers for review this week, and have around 100 remaining before the end of August.