For me, the 2013 Fieldays was the best yet in 45 years of showcasing the finest of New Zealand’s agri-business sectors.

note that this cloud-based animal traceability system requires broadband infrastructure to work effectively and efficiently
The number of people attending Fieldays reflects a growing interest in the exhibits and activities.  Which makes it such a great annual opportunity for townies to appreciate the importance of the rural sector.

In singing the praises of our rural businesses, the Minister for Primary Industries, Nathan Guy seems to appreciates this. “Primary industries are the powerhouse of New Zealand’s economy generating around $30 billion a year in exports, which is about 72% of all our exports.” he said.

I believe him but cannot quite reconcile this view of rural New Zealand by one government minister, when another is so unreceptive to the needs of remote rural people and businesses.

There is a clear underpinning role for high speed broadband in achieving the government’s objective of doubling primary sector exports by 2025.   Yet Amy Adams appears to be happy to rest on the self-pronounced accolades of the Rural Broadband Initiative whilst ignoring the unmet needs of remote rural people.

Also rising each year, are the number of firms participating at Fieldays.  More importantly, their innovations and the quality of products showcased, just keeps going up and up.

Fieldays_1248Many firms reflected the premier theme of the 45th Fieldays, “Getting down to business in the global economy”.  The government, through the Ministry of Primary Industries, operated a high profile site and seminar series to give strong impetus to its export focus.

But it was the Innovation Centre that I enjoyed the most and was where Waikato organisations figured highly.

Hamilton company Gallagher celebrated 75 years of innovation by winning the Fieldays International Innovation Award with their hand held animal tag reader. With farm-to-plate food traceability growing in significance, this great product has a great future.  We should note that this cloud-based animal traceability system requires broadband infrastructure to work effectively and efficiently.

In the same category, the merit award went to C-Dax for its SmartMaps control system, with the Grassroots and Vodafone ICT awards going to a Quad Bike GPS Monitoring System.  Both of these innovations also require broadband to connect to their cloud-based functions.

There were many innovations not needing a broadband connection.

Pukekohe company Fieldmaster were at their first Fieldays with a range of products.  Their entry in the Innovation Awards, a swivel mount for tractor implements, was well received by farmers.

My favourite innovation was the mobile honey harvester from Revolutionary Beekeeping that takes much of the back breaking work out of harvesting honey.

Another popular winner was Ayla Hutchinson whose school science project “Kindling Cracker” won her the Young Inventor’s Award.  Part of her prize is assistance to take the intellectual property process further.

Two Raglan entrepreneurs received “a nudge forward” in winning the $15,000 prize in the Innovation Den, for their aerial robots that are being used for aerial photography, property inspections and fertiliser applications.

The Innovation Den, an initiative by Waikato’s entrepreneurship centre SODA Inc, is a new-to-Fieldays “Dragon’s Den” style event where companies pitch for investment in their innovative product.

The innovation that may prove to be the most significant was launched as the Fieldays closed. Google started their Project Loon.  There is nothing silly about a project that may bring high speed broadband to remote rural people.  More about that next week.