Straight Furrow : August 24th 2011
Straight Furrow • August 23, 2011 23 BUSINESS BEAT SILVER Fern Farms has launched a new project in the United Kingdom using software developed in New Zealand to improve the produc- tivity of sheep and beef farmers on both sides of the world. The project is funded by an English beef and sheep industry association (EBLEX) and Marks & Spencer, one of the New Zealand farmer-owned co-operative's major customers in the UK. The venture will be managed by SFF (UK) and will run for 12 months until June 2012. Eight sheep and beef farms in England and 10 sheep and beef farms in New Zealand will be involved. Both groups will use Farmax farm management software, which has been developed in New Zealand over the past 20 years, to monitor and model how changes in farm and grassland management practice can influ- ence productivity and profitabili- ty.Each farmer will be responsible for monthly monitoring and infor- mation recording. Farmax consultants will then visit the United Kingdom approx- imately every two months, check- ing on progress and providing farm management insight and advice. Farmax will also provide system support and training for all participants. "This project has massive potential to help us understand grass supply and feed demand, which is a first for the English beef and sheep sector," said Dr Liz Genever, beef and sheep sci- entist at EBLEX. It would also help demonstrate the benefits of improved grazing management for animal perform- ance and profitability, she said. Renée Hogg, SFF's project man- ager for the Farmax UK Project, said the co-operative was pleased to be working with UK and New Zealand farmers to help them improve production. A common language and data capture of information through Farmax offered an opportunity to benchmark farms and run com- parisons between UK and New Zealand farm businesses. "We have established a set of key performance indicators for the farm businesses taking part in the project," Ms Hogg said. "During the next twelve months we hope to gain real insights into what is driving profit and produc- tivity between United Kingdom and New Zealand farms, and look forward to sharing (those find- ings)." Marks & Spencer's agricultural manager Steven McLean said agriculture faced many chal- lenges with climate change, infla- tion in input prices and pressure on land use as a result of popula- tion growth. His company's "Farming for the Future" programme was all about working with its supply partners to find innovative ways to address those challenges and this project was a key part of that. "Optimising the productivity of grassland brings benefits to all ruminant livestock producers, regardless of the production sys- tem that they operate, and this should in turn improve profitabil- ity on farm, increasing economic sustainability." SFF's chief executive Keith Cooper said the co-operative's involvement in the initiative demonstrated its commitment to increasing the sustainability of sheep meat production in collab- oration with its international partners. He expected the initial pro- gramme should be advanced with findings and systems gener- ated by Farm IQ Systems, a busi- ness formed by SFF to increase the productive capacity of farm- ers. "It is another example of how partnerships can be built to enhance global sheep meat pro- duction and potentially assist the promotion of the end product to consumers," Mr Cooper said. For more information about the project, go to www.eblex.org.uk and visit the Research and Development area. -- Rob Tipa NZ-UK joint project looks at inceasing productivity WAIKATO based company BBC Technologies has been awarded a research and development (R&D) grant to develop high-tech fruit sorting equipment for export to the lucrative global blueberry and cherry markets. The Technology Development Grant is administered by the Ministry of Science and Innovation and supports firms with a good track record in R&D and which spend a significant proportion of their rev- enue on R&D. BBC Technologies general manager Geoff Furniss said the grant would pro- vide the company with the ability to build upon its innovative edge in the interna- tional market and maintain its R&D focus here in New Zealand. "It's a great recognition of the efforts the team has made over the past 15 years." Brett O'Riley, deputy chief executive business investment and innovation at MSI, said MSI's support would mean BBC Technologies would be able to invest in R&D over the next three years. "It will allow them to keep on doing what they are good at: developing innova- tive and profitable products and services and take them to their clients all over the world." The company's R&D programme over the next three years includes further developing vision based sorting, filling and weighing systems and software tools to provide orchard process control and management systems beyond the pack- house to the field. The economic impact to the New Zealand economy resulting from the research projects is expected to be $13 million over the next five years. BBC Technologies emerged over a decade ago when the need to improve fruit sorting arose at their Ohaupo blue- berry farm. Specialist design staff were employed to create the Color Sorta -- a unique electron- ic machine separating green and red berries from blueberries. Based on the product success, the com- pany has since grown to design, manufac- ture and export a wide range of hi-tech fruit sorting and packing equipment around the globe. -- copy supplied Waikato firm gets grant to develop fruit sorting equipment THE Government has awarded $50 million in grants to 19 businesses to help them promote research and development. Science and Innovation Minister Wayne Mapp announced the second round of grants last week. A further $92.6 million went to 26 businesses in December. Dr Mapp said the research science and technolo- gy was the way to create jobs, economic growth and a higher living standard for the country. "To that end, it is vital that high-tech, exporting companies maintain their competitive edge in glob- al markets," he said. The grants range from $300,000 to $5.9 million and run for three years. They are valued at 20 per cent of the research and development spend in each business and provide a maximum $2.4 million a year for three years. Dr Mapp said they provided the businesses involved with more financial security over that peri- od. Businesses to get grants in the latest round were involved in software development, biotechnology, manufacturing and electronics. To see the full list of businesses, visit www.bee- hive.govt.nz/release/new-grants-highlight-impor- tance-science-and-innovation -- Kate Chapman AS the country recovers from last week's polar blast, Levin's outdoor apparel manufacturer Swazi has turned its hand to cush- ioned threads this season, creating some warm yet stylish looks. Wooloft, a 100 per cent wool insu- lated development designed specifi- cally to pad out garments, will beecome a name synonymous with Swazi's new outdoor leisurewear. Although the clothing company is a member of Campaign for wool, loft- ed garments are new to the Swazi range, which has been in operation since the mid-90s. This latest technological advance- ment has come about from talking to farmers and seeing the opportunities of using wool in clothing rather than just carpets and rugs. To show support for the local wool industry and their commitment in keeping their business New Zealand made, Swazi have done their research and are now using a spe- cialist company in Christchurch to source their raw fibres. "There's no other product on the market like it," says marketing assis- tant Taygen Hughes. "We've created awesome outdoor wear manufactured here from 100 per cent crossbred wool." Swazi's innovative approach has taken all the inherent traits of a natu- ral product and enhanced it with some modern Kiwi ingenuity to pro- duce an insulation that performs "extraordinarily well". The wool is blended, scoured and carded into a sliver which is then passed through several liq- uid vessels in an initial wet process in prepara- tion for crimping. The vessels contain a solution which both shrink proofs the wool to virtually eliminate fibre migration and felting so it retains its spring. It is then dried before it gets crimped under a dry steam heat, packed in bales and then set in an autoclave. This mechanical process adds about 30 per cent more bulk to the wool, allow- ing a lighter weight while maintaining loft. "People often have the misconception it is the fibre which keeps them warm. The reality is, it's the loft, which by trapping air, acts as an insula- tor giving excellent warm retention," Ms Hughes said. "Now all that's required is for it to be cut into garment pieces and handcrafted into an amazing product ready to take to the world marketplace. You could see the jackets and vests worn any- where from Auckland's CBD to the local rugby match." Prototypes were exhibited in April at one of the world's largest outdoor trade fairs, the Villmarksmessen show, which took place in Norway. "It certainly had that wow factor we were after," Ms Hughes said. "Wooloft certainly shines a light on a tradition- al fibre with a very modern twist." The inaugural run of Wooloft jackets and vests are now available in Swazi stores. Swazi is the last remaining large outdoor cloth- ing company to be proudly K iwi-made. Visit www.swazi.com for information Money boost for research and development Swazi launches outdoor leisurewear The fibre used in Swazi's Wooloft leisurewear range.
August 17th 2011
August 31st 2011