By Chris Gandy
I am relatively new to the farming game and have been on a steep learning curve for the past 25 years or so.
One of he first lessons I learnt from this adventure was from Neil, a sheep farmer who breeds fine wool merinos. Neil’s sheep were coming into lambing season and be decided to lay fox baits in a heavily timbered part of his property. Being a good neighbour and knowing I was new to this, he invited me to come along and learn a few “tricks of the trade”
Off we went on foot into some fairly hilly and heavily timbered country and eventually Neil chose a spot to place the first bait and then he did something amazing. He pulled this gizmo out of his back-pack about the size of a house brick and started pushing some buttons. I asked him what it was and he said it was called a GPS.
I had heard about these things but certainly hadn’t seen one and thought they were only just being used at the time by the military and search and rescue services in emergency situations. Here we were with what I thought at the time was cutting edge technology plotting by satellite where we were burying 20 fox baits. I was blown away. Neil on the other hand laconically responded to my great excitement about being cutting edge in the Australian bush by simply saying “Sure beats wandering in the bush trying to find where I put me baits”.
This was the first of many lessons I have learnt from farmers about the use of technology as an enabler in delivering on a cause. And farmers are so good at it.
They say necessity is the mother of invention and I have come across many people who can invent a solution to get themselves out of jam. But farmers have another skill. They can look at a piece of technology which most often was invented and marketed for another purpose and successfully apply it to a problem they are dealing with on a day to day basis. And so we end up with new farming applications like:
- Drones with CCTV fitted to check on stock and dam levels many kilometres away (beats travelling all day to simply check on things)
- Solar panel operated gate openers/closers (beats travelling 5 klms to the front gate to let someone in and worry about whether they closed the gate after them)
- Micro chipped ear tags (beats counting sheep and maintaining paper records)
- Laser guided harvesters (beats stopping a harvest at nightfall because you can’t see where you are going)
- Ultrasound animal pregnancy testers (beats putting your hand up a cows rear end)
Also, I have yet to come across a farmer who treats technology as a toy or some sort of status symbol. An attitude of “if it doesn’t serve a constructive purpose, don’t have it” seems to prevail.
The lesson here for any for profit or not for profit organisation is to milk technology for all it is worth. If it saves time and effort, expands the range of your services, dramatically reduces your response time – embrace it. More importantly, do what farmers do – actively seek it out.
How effectively is your organisation using technology to maximise its social impact? Are you still wandering about in the bush?
About the author: Chris Gandy is the Principal and Founder of Cause and Effective and a part-time farmer. Cause and Effective has identified a some characteristics, we call them Touchstones, that differentiate truly effective not for profits from the rest of the field – the proactive use of technology is one of these. You can contact Chris here