The Dairying and Clean Streams Accord, an agreement between Fonterra, the Minister for the Environment, the Minister of Primary Industries (MPI) and Local Government NZ, was signed in 2003 as voluntary industry response to concerns about water quality.  Two outcomes specifically targeted at waterways were:

  • Stock exclusion from waterways ‘wider than a stride and deeper than a red band’
  • Bridges or culverts over all regular stock crossing points.

As part of their annual on farm assessment farmers were asked questions around stock exclusion from waterways, the data gathered was used to show progress towards the targets.  

However, in 2011 MPI audited the progress which showed discrepancies in the farmer reported data versus actual data and as a result of this the credibility of industry reporting and voluntary approach to compliance was questioned.

In early 2012 we (GPS-it) were approached by Fonterra to develop a system that meet the following criteria:

  • Accurate reporting – needed to be able to demonstrate progress on an on-going basis, with accurate auditable data
  • Easy to use – a wide range of people would be operating the system, some computer savvy and some not
  • Acceptable to farmers – no point showing up on farm with a tool that farmers didn’t accept or understand.  Most farmers are naturally interested in seeing a map of their farm and quickly identify the features that we are looking for (most…. not all)
  • Able to work offline – many farm are out of range for data coverage, online was never going to be an option
  • Credible with the public – needed to be a system that a member of the public could understand and see the logic behind (unlike previous approach)
  • Flexibility to grow – mapping supplier farms has benefits beyond this programme and system needed to be scalable.

Within 2 months of being awarded the contract we had a solution up and running which meet the criteria and had 40 users around the country. This has now grown to 190 users from Fonterra field, operational and management staff, contracted service providers and GPS-it support staff.

The system is based on the ArcGIS platform using ArcGIS server residing in the IBM Data Center in Auckland and ArcGIS for Windows Mobile was selected as the base mobile application.

One of the key functions of ArcGIS for Windows Mobile was its ability to work offline and in a disconnected environment as the application was to be used on-farm were this is often no (or very poor) internet connection.

We have extensively customised the out of the box solution by:

  • adding in custom workflows
  • simplifying GIS tools
  • Client side data checking
  • Audit trails (tracking and stamping all edits)
  • Minimal typing
  • Touch screen enabled.

We purchased the rural imagery set for NZ and built a custom script to import and cut down the nationwide set into regional dataset, tailored for individual user groups for easy deployment onto the field devices.

The system is extremely easy to use and we have had positive feedback from not only users but farmers as well.  Having a the ability to put a map in front of a farmer and review and classify their waterways and crossings on farm has been hugely valuable in educating farmers and assisting them and Fonterra achieve the goal of 100 % stock exclusion.

We have a dedicated support team to assist users with any issues they may encounter with the system and to cross check data as it comes into the system.  We are extremely responsive to Fonterra requests and queries, often many of these being answered overnight.

Every night the application runs through over 80 checks and publishes a set of reports onto a secure website for Fonterra staff.  This information is then bundled with information from other Fonterra systems and published for senior and field staff showing weekly progress.

The system now has information on over 9300 farms, 38,000 crossing points and over 23,000 km  of waterways that have been recorded as Stock excluded.

Having an accurate dataset on Fonterra farms allows us answer a range of questions, such as looking at the impact of a regional rule change on the farmers in that region or looking at soil and nutrient information at the farm level.

Overall the application has laid the foundation for an excellent dataset for farms that supply Fonterra and to continue to assist farmers and Fonterra achieve their environmental goals.

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