Ballance Agri-Nutrients is one of New Zealand's largest nutrient management companies. It is leading the Clearview Innovations PGP programme which could benefit New Zealand with new products, increased on-farm productivity, and improved water quality
Adding nitrogen and phosphate to pasture is a vital part of maintaining the productivity and competitiveness of New Zealand farming systems. The cost to farmers of applying these nutrients is a significant part of their annual budget and these costs are increasing.
Leaching (or run-off) of nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) from farms has the potential to enter waterways.
The Clearview Innovations programme will develop a range of new products, including biological products, which will improve nitrogen and phosphorus use efficiency and reduce losses to the environment. The programme aims to achieve:
An improvement in the efficiency of nitrogen fertiliser use by 50% in pastoral systems by 2018
A reduction in nitrogen losses from dairy farm systems by 30% by 2018
An increase in the efficiency of P fertiliser use by 20% by 2020
A decrease in soil accumulation and/or plant uptake of contaminants in P fertiliser by 20% by 2018.
The programme will also help farmers adopt these new products and services through a best-practice extension programme which aims to improve on-farm management and reduce environmental footprints while increasing efficiency. There will be improvements in water quality in intensively farmed areas.
Seven projects have been identified that have strong prospects for producing commercial products. Two products have now been commercialised while a third, MitAgator, has been developed to a working prototype stage. As products move through the commercialisation phase, the focus is now turning to the extension and education part of the programme with an emphasis on enhancing how farmers’ manage nutrients to both gain efficiencies and decrease losses beyond the farm boundary:
N-Guru™ is a decision support model that more accurately predicts pasture responses to nitrogen. Backed by extensive research, N-Guru™ has been designed in conjunction with AgResearch to improve the efficiency of nitrogen use on New Zealand pastoral farms. The software is available for farmers, through Ballance Nutrient Specialists offering N-Guru™ as part of a farmer’s fertiliser recommendation to help make better decisions about the rate and spatial use of nitrogen, while reducing the impact on the environment. More information .
SpreadSmart™ is technology installed into topdressing planes allowing pilots to focus on flying the aircraft while ensuring the fertiliser is applied at the optimum rate, in the right place, avoiding environmentally sensitive areas and improving returns to farmers. SpreadSmart™ is now commercially available to North Island farmers through Ballance’s aerial top dressing business Super Air. The service utilises a digital farm map and the GPS guidance system in Super Air’s aircraft to improve accuracy of aerial topdressing. More information .
MitAgator™ develops risks maps for individual farms that identify areas where loss of P, N, sediment and bacterial contaminants are more likely to occur. This tool can be used to assess and prioritise mitigation actions tailored to the individual’s situation. The working version prototype has been completed and it is now being piloted. A route to market assessment is currently underway for this tool with strong interest in MitAgator from regional council staff and other professionals managing water quality.
Three trademarks developed within the programme have been filed to date. These are: N Guru™, MitAgator™, and Spreadsmart™
Collaboration with the Dairy industry has generated a booklet of agreed nitrogen loss factors and management options to reduce nitrogen loss from dairy farms (available on request). Two series of Nutrient Management workshops have been conducted regionally throughout New Zealand, in collaboration with Fonterra, Tatua, DairyNZ and Dairy Women’s Network. These events focussed on helping farmers to interpret their own farm nutrient situations to optimise fertiliser use efficiency and reduce nutrient losses.
An E-Learning system has been developed for Ballance extension and sales staff and is in use with four modules completed. This helps to speed up the capability building of Ballance Nutrient Specialists.
Bio control product concepts have been advanced significantly with proof of concept, field efficacy and formulation studies completed. A route to market assessment is currently underway.
A bio-granule technology has been developed to create better performing application with the technology being encapsulated within 2 filed patents. These granules provide an improved mechanism for the dispersal of the bio control agents to the soil.
Programme start: October 2011 Length: 7 years PGP funding: $9.75 million Industry funding: $9.75 million Crown funding paid out to programme for work done to 31 December 2016: $7,524,719.85 Commercial partners: Ballance Agri-Nutrients Ltd Estimated potential economic benefits to NZ: $348 million per annum by 2025 (under review)
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