Reflections on MobileTech 2016 New Zealand

MobileTech 2016 New Zealand dairy industry and technology

Last week I had the unique pleasure of taking the longest modern day flight from Amsterdam to Auckland to attend the MobileTech 2016 primary industry conference. Having never been to New Zealand before, I merely needed an excuse to travel and also learn about what is one of the major dairy markets of the world.

Dairy is everywhere in New Zealand, try if you will, it’s hard to avoid. Starting from the rather severe biosecurity requirements at the airport to the landscape dotted with grazing cows everywhere, dairy is integrated into the kiwi culture. Reflecting on the two days I spent at the conference, here are some of my key takeaways:

The dairy Industry is under pressure

The impact of falling milk prices is at the forefront of farmers and industry professionals alike. Farmers are having to cut production, adding pressure to their investment capability while at the same time milk distribution companies are feeling the pressure of dropping demand from China. While the government has yet to intervene, there are rumblings that the NZ government may need to step in to bolster this industry. Having said that, there is increased focus now on diversification from farmers and how best they can leverage their land, resources and skill to continue to feed international markets with their products.

Big Data, IOT, Drones and rural connectivity are major themes being explored

While the themes are not necessarily novel and the same level of discussions are taking place in the EU, there are early signs of adoption by value chain and farmers alike in New Zealand. Several companies and NGO’s have successfully deployed location tracking technologies to enable traceability. These are early signs of successful adoption of basic IOT/data driven technologies. Telco’s also see this space as a major opportunity and have plans to create new connectivity options for data and sensor based technologies to rely on their infrastructure. However, rural connectivity is the long-tail and it may take time for remote areas to catch up with urban standards. The needs of farmers are far more basic than what current technology roadmap provides and these basic issues need to be addressed first.

Connecterra’s product offering is differentiated

The showcase of farm management, drone mapping, sensor data analysing technologies was impressive to say the least. The slew of technologies that are able to map a field in multiple wavelengths, from drones or satellites is staggering and the fundamental technologies are getting better every day. However, almost all vendors present the data and findings to the farmer leaving the end user wondering what exactly the vendor expects the farmer to do with the data? Connecterra’s dairy health service delivers insights from data making them actionable and usable for farmers. The feedback we received on this particular aspect was very encouraging and highly differentiated. Contrary to what one might expect, farmers and industry are not necessarily technology laggards but pragmatic buyers of technology. Given the right proof points of value and technology that works for the bottom line, purchase decisions are relatively straightforward. Farmers need all the help in improving their work-life balance and basic P&L of their operations and if technology impacts this, then it’s a deal.

By Yasir Khokhar, CEO at Connecterra.