Posted on: June 17, 2019 at 12:31 PM    

Fieldays is a kiwi institution, as kiwi as the agriculture and primary industry that it supports. Billed as "the biggest agricultural trade show in the Southern Hemisphere", it hosts over 1,000 exhibitors and attracts 115,000 visitors with events across New Zealand.  This year Abley staff attended Fieldays in Hamilton, to support our customer Ballance Agri Nutrients, and to keep an eye out for mapping opportunities and spatial and technology innovation in the agricultural sector.

Ballance Agri Nutrients are one of the largest agricultural companies in New Zealand. For the last 18 months, Abley have been supporting their spatial infrastructure, helping to maintain one of the largest implementations of ArcGIS Enterprise in New Zealand which provides over 5,000 farmers with access to farm mapping data, nutrient information and topographic layers.  

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Ballance have built specific custom applications that combine Web App Builder templates and the ArcGIS Javascript API with SAP’s E-Commerce Platform to meet the diverse needs of farmers.  Their flagship platform, MyBallance, simplifies complex geospatial processes into intuitive tools, many of which have been built by Abley’s team of developers.   These add value across a farmer’s business, from planning fertiliser requirements to recording nutrient placement, decision support, regulatory compliance, Health & Safety, benchmarking and more.  MyBallance is supported by MitAgator, a breakthrough environmental planning tool for sustainable farm management, which is supported by Abley.  Also on display at Fielddays was MyPasturePlanner, a decision support tool to improve efficiency of nitrogen use on pastoral farms, built in part by Abley’s outstanding developers.

Being involved with the development of these tools, and maintaining a system used by farmers across New Zealand, been a challenging and worthwhile experience.  As a professional services company, our involvement with end users is often restricted to UI and UX interactions.  At Fieldays we had the opportunity to see and hear how farmers actually used the tools we help to build, which provides a wonderful insight into how we can help continue to deliver value.

The Ballance site at Fieldays had a huge tent packed with farmers and interested members of the public. Ballance staff demonstrated the MyBallance and MitAgator applications, with maps on display everywhere. Perhaps more importantly was the cafe at the back of the tent that served Ballance customers (and the Abley team) with pies, hot soup and coffee - exactly what we needed on a cold Wednesday in June.

We had a great experience with Ballance but Fieldays is huge and it was time for some exploring.  Highlights included the Police Tractor which, although it may not have been up to high speed pursuit, it was certainly capable of keeping the crowds in awe and order. The number of pieces of machinery, from seemingly full sized milking sheds to excavators, to electric motorbikes to log splitters was endless.  Amazing food from producers across the country was available in the food courts and at the retail outlets, keeping tastebuds happy and legs fuelled for a long day of walking.   And if it was outdoor clothing you were interested in then you could have filled your wardrobe many times over.

Fieldays was a great experience, highlighting the diverse nature of agriculture across New Zealand.  And, though we definitely stood out as townies, the next time we are trying to understand the use case for a particular tool for MyBallance, we will be able to look back at Fieldays and feel a little closer to the end user.

Blog written by Chris Morris, Spatial & Technology Group Manager 

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