Tell us about Yara and why you are excited to be involved in the Quantified Farm Conference.

Yara is a global fertilizer manufacturer headquartered in Oslo Norway with around 13,000 employees worldwide.  Yara has several R&D sites and manufacturing plants in Europe, UK, North America, South America and Africa producing 35 million tonnes of fertilizer. Our aspiration is to be the leading provider of sustainable crop nutrition solutions, supporting farmer profitability through knowledge, quality and productivity.

I’m eagerly looking forward to being part of the conference to help impart my knowledge that helped a New Zealand farmer become a world wheat record holder and help Canadian farmers look at maximizing yield potential on their properties.

Our conference theme is the Spirit of Farm Innovation. Tell us how you believe innovation played a role in Maxine and Eric Watson’s Guinness World Record for the highest yielding crop of wheat?

Eric & Maxine are always looking at innovation and what they can use on their property to help them gain an edge in growing crops.

Eric & Maxine like to surround themselves with people that will challenge them and take them to the top of their field. As Eric says in their video “there are things I could do better” and that’s why he has invested in a 48 meter new sprayer to reduce the number of passes he is currently doing in fields and improve yields with the use of liquid fertilizers, especially nitrogen.

They use tools such as all field soil testing to even up their soil variability and save on fertilizer inputs. They’re doing deep soil N testing 0-60cm to get the residual values of nitrogen in the soil at the end of winter to match inputs to crop demand.

All tractors, sprayers, and combines have GPS and auto steer to maximize the areas sown and harvested.

They both travel annually to either Europe, UK or USA where they have built a good network of industry personnel that can help them with new ideas.

What recommendations would you give the Watsons to help them continue to improve upon their record yield?

I would continually challenge them on what they are currently doing and question whether there is a better way of doing it. I would also continue to show them what is happening in other parts of the world to see which strategies they may be able to adopt on their property.

What other areas of the farming industry do you see New Zealand becoming a global leader?

New Zealand is predominately an agriculture export driven country with around 60% of GDP derived from our farming base. With a population of 4.7 million and food production to feed approximately 100 million. Innovative farming systems and technology from the farm to the plate are very important so the consumer is enjoying produce of the highest quality, this is key.

New Zealand is recognized as a global leader in the dairy and lamb exports. Also, horticulture plays a large part in New Zealand exports, especially kiwifruit, apples and wine and these contribute around $10b NZD (approx. C$8.8b) to GDP.

How do you encourage a culture of innovation at Yara?

We strive to be at the forefront of agricultural technology, be it in farming systems, product innovation, application techniques, advice etc. It comes back to our aspiration to be the leading provider of sustainable crop nutrition solutions, supporting farmer profitability through knowledge, quality and productivity.

Are there any innovative tools or processes that have been implemented in your organization that you are particularly proud of?

There are 3 very good examples of new tools that Yara has developed for the arable industry.

Yara CheckIT smartphone app which identifies nutrient deficiencies in crops. This can be used by farmers and agronomists while out in the fields and help to make decisions.

The Yara N-Sensor is a tractor mounted nitrogen sensor that picks up either areas of nitrogen deficiencies or excesses in fields and adjusts the rate of nitrogen applied to the crop as it is travelling through the field. This helps increase yields and avoids the overuse of applied N to areas that are already high in nitrogen.

Then there is the N-Tester which is a small hand-held nitrogen measure to assist in making N application decisions.

What do you hope to take away from the Quantified Farm conference?

Good networking contacts, as well as new ideas, tools, systems etc. that we could apply to New Zealand arable farms.

Join Paul Johnston and other farm innovators at The Quantified Farm Conference Dec 6-7 in Banff. Get tickets now!