27 Nov 2013

Collaborating with farmers in the field

Regen meets with Greg Maughan (Marton-Manawatu farm)

Why should farmers team up with Regen and be active in the development of their new product ? How useful can it be to link farmers in the field with the farming online community ? And most importantly, how, by collaborating with Regen, farmers can really make a difference in farming ? These are some of the questions that we talk about in the piece on our meeting with Greg Maughan, a farmer in the Manawatu.

Greg Maughan (Marton-Manawatu farm)
The second day of our project was fascinating. We visited Greg Maughan at his Manawatu farm. Greg is one of the farmers who believes in Regen’s products. He is fully involved in Regen: Messenger development and was one of our earliest customers.

So, it is natural that he was one of the first people we visited to talk about Regen: Nitrogen. We were right on time for the morning tea.

Greg’s use of nitrogen

We first asked Greg to tell us about his current nitrogen management. He has had the same nitrogen policy for about 10 years. He tried a new product a while ago - Progib - but the results weren't very conclusive and not as good as his usual methods. Pasture appeared to grow well initially and then stopped. He hasn't tried it again, although he knows of farmers who now mix some solid urea in as well and are satisfied with the results they get.

Greg explained to us, his main concerns were better predicting pasture deficits and then planning ahead nitrogen use. With the existing tools, he can’t actually predict far enough in advance when a feed deficit may happen. As a consequence, sometimes his use of nitrogen looks like he has missed the boat by a couple of weeks. So he is not sure how relevant or not his nitrogen management is. He told us that, at least, he would like to be more sure of its efficiency, if only for economic's sake. He was also wondering to what extent other businesses were concerned by the difficulty of controlling this aspect of their activity.

His other concern was planning ahead. How can he control the amount of nitrogen that he actually needs in relation with specific periods of the year and his annual fert budget. How can nitrogen use be rightly quantified and long enough in advance to make its usage relevant and cheaper?

Greg’s expectations for improving his nitrogen managing

When we were thinking about improving nitrogen management, the question of a more accurate level of prediction for feed deficits was something we hadn't thought of in the context Greg did. When he explained his thinking and how nitrogen is like supplementary feed, it made a lot of sense.

So when we asked him what he would expect from a nitrogen management service. He frankly said that he would want it to provide him with a maximum of information that can help him make the most relevant decision. For instance, being able to get an idea of how soil moisture and temperature were likely to change looking ahead. And even more importantly, what impact this would have on pasture growth rates. If he could foresee a pasture deficit about a month out, and then know what response rate he could expect from nitrogen use - that would be really useful for him.

In this context, what can Regen do ?

Needless to say on our way back we were all discussing how to get Regen: Nitrogen even more in line with farmers’ expectations and needs. We had lots of ideas and we’re already working on implementing some of Greg’s suggestions.

No question, meeting Greg helped us to get a better sense of what farmers were expecting in terms of nitrogen management. Of course, his perspective was different from ours as he’s on the farm managing nitrogen every day. For Regen, it is what makes our collaboration with farmers so productive. Telling us about his experience was a very valuable as it allows us to refine some of Regen : Nitrogen’s features.

In many ways, meeting Greg confirmed us in the collaborative direction we had decided to take. More than ever, collaborating with farmers appears to us as the best way to support farmers in their search for constant and sustainable growth.

If you want to comment on this article, do it. At Regen we’re really looking forward to hearing from you. And of course, we’ll be happy to reply to all of your comments.


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