Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Feb 28 - EU Agriculture & Visit to Pig Farms

Departed from our hotel at 7am and got caught in a traffic jam. Arrived at a virtual pig enterprize 3 hours later.

We had an address from the Netherlands Minister for Agriculture who gave us an overview of the Netherlands' position with subsidies, quotas and the agricultural reform process that is underway throughout the 27 European Union member states. It was fascinating to hear the history of subsidies and quotas and where its all heading.

We heard from an OxFam rep regarding pressures on food security and living without poverty.

We also heard from an organic pig producer and then another large scale pig producer who is using technology to bring together his workforce consultancy team and customers. He also runs a pig genetics company which supplies to 40 countries.

A good day with another excellent venue and array of presenters - but we didn't front with an actual live pig all day!!

Feb 27 - Spido tour of Rotterdam

During this evening our scholar group boarded a tourist boat in Rotterdam for dinner and a tour of the harbour and port.

I was soon to discover that this is a huge trading port supplying Europe.

In fact Rotterdam on the North Sea, is the third largest port in the world. Very industrial. We saw miles and miles of large freight ships being loaded with shipping containers. This is happening 24/7.

We saw the largest oil drilling rig from the North Sea in dry dock for maintenance. Enormous!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Feb 27 - Flower photos

Feb 27 - Cooperative Systems in Dutch Agribusiness

A 6am start for a tour to Flora Holland - a huge flower and potplant auction house. The scale of this auction centre is incredible. This centre which is more like a village, is a grower co-op employing 8000 staff. It has been running for 100 years and generates 4.1 billion Euro turnover per annum.

These trolleys of flowers are on automated, continuous tracks moving around the factory. 

It was amazing to see the range of cut flowers on display. The logistics of receiving, selling and distributing flowers and potplants is extraordinary.

There is a theatre style facility for buyers to sit in to place their bids at the flower auction. Other buyers can bid electronically from their offices or homes.

Auctions run on the basis of the Dutch auction system where bids start high and work down until someone places a bid and wins the lot number. There is a very large elctronic auction clock which buyers bid on. This clock describes the flower variety and number being offered. This method creates a very fast sales system with 1500 transactions every hour. There are 41 of these clocks offering different varieties, all operating simultaneously. 12 billion flowers are sold annually plus a further 600 million potplants. With this super fast logistics and sales system, flowers are delivered around the world usually within 2 days of being picked.

We then had a session on the fundamentals of co-ops both in NZ and the Netherlands. Co-ops have proven to be a successful trading arrangement. We heard presentations on this subject from industry leaders and a professor to give us a better understanding on how co-ops work, their strengths and weaknesses.

The United Nations has named 2012 as 'The Year of the Co-op'.

Feb 26 - Contemporary Scholars Conference

Today was the start of the Contemporary Scholars Conference and we met with the other Australian 2012 scholars (21 of us) plus scholars from the UK, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Canada and the USA. We spent the day in meetings and had briefing sessions at the hotel.

Feb 25 - Arrival in the Netherlands

Arrived in the Netherlands after a guelling 3 flights/26 hours from Christchurch to Auckland to Hong Kong to Amsterdam. Took a train to Rotterdam and arrvived at our hotel around 10am absolutely exhausted. We then left on a bus tour at 11.30am for a Welcome to Holland Landscape tour!

The Netherlands looks like an interesting place with a population of 17 million. 60% of the country is below sea level and has been reclaimed from the sea by building dykes/levy banks and converting to farming country.

They are just coming out of winter here so it is quite cold at 3 degrees. Ornamental trees lining the roads are still dormant but paddocks are beginning to green after the ice/snow has melted.

Wind turbines - thousands of them - are everywhere for renewable energy. They are huge and there are no concerns about building in close proximity to farm houses and cities. This particular wind turbine was on the edge of a major freeway.

We had a look at Volendam - a pretty little seaside tourist resort and tried the local delicacy of raw herring which was surprisingly good!

We visited a dairy which relies on shedding their cows to keep them warm.

This dairy is using cow manure and other landfill waste - fermenting it in large tanks to produce gas for renewable energy consumption as well as producing fertilizer. They also have their own wind turbine!

Returned to the hotel late and caught up on some sleep!

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Feb 23 - Earthquake

Drove from Ashburton to Christchurch on the day after the 12 month anniversary since last years earthquake.
Were given a tour to the edge of the red zone in the CBD and had a look at the demolitian that is still happening. Only half of the buildings to be demolished have actually been demolished with the remainder still being assessed. 1300 out of 1600 buildings in the CBD will need to be demolished after the 6.3 earthqake.

Some of the city is back trying to function normally. Shipping containers have been reconfigured to make shopping precincts - malls and arcades, allowing some businesses to operate. It actually looks good and functions well.

Some suburbs have been so badly affected that the government will not allow people to move back home so there are a considerable number of 'homeless' people. These suburbs were on low lying swamps and affected by liquefaction so the land will need to be reclaimed.

There is a local river running through these suburbs, the surface water of which, rose 1 metre higher after the quake. It is now threatening to come over the banks and flood low lying suburbs so residential areas are in the process of being relocated.

The mood of the locals is still very sombre because there are still tremors every day with more than 3000 since last year. Most are under 4 on the Richter scale. There were 22 tremors in the time we were there, only one was big enough to feel.
We spoke to some businesses about their experiences immediately after the quake. Also talked with Sam Johnson who's just been awarded NZ Young Person of the Year. Sam is a Uni student with a remarkable story about using facebook to mobilize the volunteer support of thousands of young people who assisted emergency service workers in cleaning up the mess immediately after the quake.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Feb 22 - Innovation

This is what a 13 tonne/ha wheat crop looks like.

Today we looked at precision agriculture where worlds latest technologies are used to measure and map nutrient deficiencies in crop paddocks. Computerized spreading machines are used to apply precision and variable fertilizer application rates to these paddocks. This provides exact plant requirements and prevents over-use of nitrogen which causes environmental concern.

Also looked at carrots and radishes grown for seed production. This seed is harvested and supplied to vege growers.

Feb 21 - Intensive Arable Production

Onions are dug and placed in rows then picked up with a tractor pulled harvester.

Visited an onion factory and learnt of some of the effects that a wet season can have on onion quality.

Also visited a carrot factory where carrots are converted to juice concentrate and exported to countries which reconstitute, to save on freight.

Visited a large seed handling factory which processes many varieties of grass and vegetable seeds to eliminate impurities and measure germination rates

Feb 20 - Irrigation & Environment

Drove from Ashburton through the pretty township of Methven towards Mt Hutt where we met with John Wright, Chairman of Barrhill Chertsey Irrigation Scheme on the Canterbury Plains.

John described plans for additional large irrigation extraction from the Rakaia River to support farming country converting to irrigated dairy.
There is a lot of opposition from environmental groups and traditional landowners about this extraction.

Pump house

We heard from the Chair of the zone committee and representative of landowners. It was a privilege to see how these stakeholders came together to sit in the same room and thoroughly work through the issue to agree to allow the project to proceed while upholding high environmental standards and the concerns of traditional landowners. All this without government involvement at this stage.

Mt Hutt - a ski resort in winter

Makes me reflect on my home Murray Darling Basin river community, in particular, current negotiations to find new water for the environment. Can't help feeling with this NZ model we could achieve a quicker and fairer outcome by having stakeholders negotiate concessions and leave the government out of directing initiatives but use government for legislating agreed outcomes.

Feb 19 - Riding the Dairy Wave

Visited Synlait - a large milk processing factory which converts raw milk to powder for export around the world.

Went to look at a traditional milking bale. Dairying in New Zealand is a high value industry with many traditional cropping businesses converting to dairy.

Robotic milking is a new innovation in milking where the principle is that the cows come to the milk shed at their discretion 2-3 times a day. The automatic robotic milker puts the cups on, extracts the milk, removes the cups, gives a grain ration and records data on each individual cow. This technology is likely to play a bigger role in the future of NZ dairying.

We met the Director of Fonterra, a large milking corporation. It was interesting to learn that dairy represents 25% of NZ Gross Domestic Product and all agricultural activities in NZ contribute approx 60% to the NZ GDP. The Australian agricultural sector contributes about 1.8% to Australia's GDP.

Feb 18 Arriving in New Zealand

Today we flew into Auckland and drove one hour south of Christchurch to Ashburton. Drove through beautiful mountains and green pasture landscapes dotted with dairy cattle, sheep and deer between windbreaks and centre-pivots.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Feb 15-18 Canberra briefing

Canberra feb 15-18  Travelled together with 6 other scholars.Nuffield Australia CEO Jim Geltch was available to show us around. Managed to fit in an amazing amount, good mix of visiting icon  Australian  landmarks with beneficial business meetings.  Above photo Prime Ministers office Old Parliament House.

Dave at War Memorial placing a poppy flower in memory of Christopher Harper a Great Uncle who was killed in action France 1916.
also visited The High Court,National Museum of Australia,National Gallery of Australia, and watched a lively question time at Parliment House.

We had dinner with Senators Chris Back and John Cobb at Parliment House, had an overview of Doha process from Aust dept of agriculture trade agency. Representation from U.S.A and E.U   Trade delegation on trade values and policy issues.Also Ceo from Grains Research and Development Corporation had discussions with our scholarship group on the opportunities for productivity gains that may be achievable through r +d programs into the future. Canberra has been fantastic. Heading to New Zealand for next leg.cheers Dave

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Last minute checks

Last day at home before leaving on my Nuffield Global Focus Program. Checking progress of Medjool dates. Still a way off harvest yet.Will post my travel itinerary here soon.