Raised profile for cropping operations
|" Fewer chemicals in the long-term the better. By using this machinery, a lot of farmers are getting close to organic without really trying. "|
Many years after receiving the Australian Inventor of the Year Award, for his raised bed management system, David McGrath of Wodonga Victoria is innovating a new forefront in agricultural machinery. Through his business Sustainable Agricultural Machinery (SAM Developments), he is providing the technology that could make all the difference to farmers under pressure from receding profits.
Throughout Australia, marginal land production has significantly increased since the introduction of Raised Bed Management Systems. Now raised bed farming is being introduced into New Zealand the prospects are endless.
There are currently only six units of SAM raised bed machinery in New Zealand, which are owned by the McLachlans and their neighbour, Grant Brown. Grant Brown, has recently taken delivery of a triple bed former to enable him to plant vegetables.
Lindsay McLachlan in partnership with his father Owen, Mount-Vue Farm Rakaia mid-Canterbury farms 220 ha of irrigable Paparoa sandy loam country. He's enthusiastic about the capabilities of the new technology to unlock the potential of cropping country in the district. He is also confident that bottom line profits will head upwards with the introduction of raised bed farming.
Mount-Vue used to carry 2000 sheep. Now there are only 180, retained as a tool to clean up paddocks in an intensive cropping regime. As well as a major carrot crop, the McLachlans grow potatoes and sweet corn for McCains. They also process peas for Talleys, seed wheat and ryegrass for Pyne Gould Guiness, turnips and radish for South Pacific Seeds and buttercup squash oats for silage for neighbouring dairy properties and field peas for seed.
In 1995 cropping started intensively when irrigation went in. The McLachlans imported a hardhose irrigator from France and a lateral move irrigator from Nebraska. About the same time, Lindsay was examining management systems in overseas magazines and that's when he picked up on raised bed management. He was sold on the idea after seeing Grant's original single bedformer in operation.
"It's deceptively simple, but there has been an extensive amount of development work go toward it. I believe we have to be looking for new ideas overseas where there's intense government funding for research for innovations which will keep us competitive."
"Now that we've got the machinery, we're still learning how to use it as we change our farming techniques. But with irrigation in mid-Canterbury now we can almost grow anything and I'm certain that we're on the way to a much more saleable product for the same input."
The McLachlans are aiming to sell under their own Mount-Vue Farm label, targeting local and export markets for their root crops. They want an even quality crop, which will attract a premium price as times get harder and competition intensifies.
Lindsay says the expense of the new equipment will pay off.
"We know the farm can grow carrots but our goal is a greater saleable tonnage per hectare. The problem today is that you have to spend it to make it. But the new machinery, whether it's seeds or vegetables, will allow us to grow a more uniform crop and in the long term we will be able to diversify into new markets."
The real charm of this system for New Zealand is that it's ideal for both vegetables and broadacre farming. It also has tremendous potential for livestock farmers wanting to produce large areas of top quality swedes and turnips."
Sustainable Agricultural Machinery makes a lot of sense with some companies paying a premium of 60% reduction in herbicide, says Lindsay. "Fewer chemicals in the long-term the better. By using this machinery, a lot of farmers are getting close to organic without really trying."