Ground spreading guesswork gone

Howard Pedersen is closer to the land than almost anyone in the Hawke’s Bay.

Besides running a 600-hectare sheep and beef farm, he is also in charge of a multi-vehicle ground-spreading company. Spreading fertiliser has been their speciality for more than two decades, but these days things are done much more differently.

“I started spreading with a brother 23 years ago, bought the farm and spreading business 15 years ago,” Howard says.

“We used to wing our way through it with no maps, and no cellphones. Local knowledge was everything.

“Normally when we turned up to a farm in our spreading trucks there was a bit of paper in the woolshed or down by the loading ramp or somewhere, normally covered in manure or wet, with the drivers having to a guess where they are and where they’re going.”

Leap forward more than two decades and Pedersen Spreaders is a more precise business. His company’s expanded to six spreading trucks and he has four full-time drivers, plus part-timers, all with a much better idea of where they are headed.

“With this new technology working it shows the exact paddock where we’re going,” he says.

Howard Pedersen’s referring to HawkEye, the Ravensdown software which helps farmers plan their feed and fertiliser needs, and records it all.

Wife Megan is a big part of the operation, helping plan what type of fertiliser is needed, and in what quantity.

Their property is a busy place. On the flat and rolling land, they graze heifers, finish lambs, make silage, breed sheep, and farm deer. They also have deer on their steeper land, as well as sheep, cattle, and some forestry.

Different parts of the farm need different fertilisers, and in various amounts. For Megan, using the HawkEye software system is a no-brainer.

“It’s been great. Instead of having a whole lot of paper that’s all over the house with coloured-in, highlighted bits of map, now we’ve got an electronic record of the fertiliser we’ve put on,“ she says.

Another advantage is all the information is stored in the one place, and it is easy to access your environmental records.

Farmers now operate under stricter rules, including needing to have comprehensive environment plans.

“We have to let the regional council know how much nitrogen we’re using & how much we’ve put on, where we’ve put it on & when we’ve done that – and what our total nitrogen use is,” Megan says.

“So it’s great we can go into the HawkEye software and we can total up over a period of time the last year or two years how much nitrogen we’ve used, how much phosphorous we’ve used - what paddocks we’ve put the products on.

“The Information is all there in one place. We used to do it on a paper map and this much more accurate.”

As for Howard, when he brings his trucks on to his own property, or anyone else’s, the job is made a lot easier. HawkEye’s making it easy for Howard’s crew, it’s integrated with a GPS tracking system called Tracmap which the driver loads on his screen.

“The best thing about HawkEye is when you’ve picked a paddock and marked out all the creeks and all the areas you don’t want to spread, you get a true effective hectare therefore you get the right amount of fertiliser,” he says.

“Therefore within its first application you’ve paid for HawkEye, it’s done its job.”

The job is now so much easier for his spreading crew.

“All my drivers they nearly demand that we get HawkEye put into our system,” Howard says.

“It makes it so simple for us to go to the farm, we know the hazards, we know the areas we’re not meant to spread.” 

Ground-breaking technology which has revolutionised the way Howard, Megan, and their team do the job.

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