For the privacy of those who I have interviewed I will not include their last names and will not share this blog link with anyone except my lecturers. If this situation was to change I would reconfirm if any of them would prefer it to be made private, and I have signed consent forms from each of these individuals.
Interview with Robert and Beverley on Sunday 21 March 2020
Robert was a farmer all his life and took over the management of his family farm when he married his wife at the age of 18.
85 years old now.
Weeding in crops- used to manually pull out weeds in between the maize crops that they used for silage.
The cows did not like eating the weeds.
They did not use many chemicals on their farm, in part because the options available were not as many.
They had lots of ragwort, scotch thistles and black berries around the fence lines.
Robert would sprinkle granules over the weeds which would then require rain to wash it into the soil. He would treat these spots of weeds while walking across his paddocks, which he recognises is a task now replaced by guys on motorbikes. Dew in the morning can also help the granules dissolve.
Terrain is very important and can vary depending on whether or not you are inland or near the ocean. The terrain also tends to define what type of livestock you are able to have.
They were dairy farmers.
The size of the design should be approachable.
Bev suggested I look up the Ruakura Research Station – (Agresearch Ruakura, 10 Bisley Rd, 07 856 2836) as they tend to have a lot of research in the area.
Their son angled the wheels on the first paraplegic wheelchairs used in sporting events so they understand the importance of design and having a product meet a certain need.
Paspalum weed is a weed that they are dealing with on their lifestyle block.
Urgid poisoning is caused by urgid weeds and can cause the cow to get the “shakes” and fall over.
Their farm was 100 acres
They used to have monthly meetings on different farms in the community to discuss what is working and what is not. – A much stronger community sense and shows that people worked together to be successful.
Gypsy Day- 1st June, the day that the sharemilkers swap farms and take all their livestock with them, this gives the livestock a varied diet from just the one type of land they have been on. (Bev fears that this may not be happening this year due to the Coronavirus.)
80% are seasonal farmers
Robert used to supply milk to the Morrinsville/ Hamilton area with milk truck picking up the glass milk bottles and delivering it to people’s doors.
Their delivery Factory still stands on Newstead Road
Their top cow ever was a two-year old cow that milked 40-50L a day.
Bev suggested watching some Country Calendar.
They have used fertiliser that has weed killer granules in it, but that would have to be spread evenly across the paddock.
Bev suggested I approach an Organic farmer to look at ways that they combat weeds and whether or not that would be different to some of the larger farms.
Bev now manages the weeds on the farm, but because she cannot carry the weight she only uses a small watering can to tackle some spots of weeds on the top edge of the property.
My Insights from the interview:
They may be older, but they are still incredibly proud of the work they had done.
Robert was in particular very honoured that I had approached him as someone who is a knowledgeable source.
I sensed when I started that they felt it would be very formal and this gave them some apprehension, and so I made the interview fairly informal, minimising technology such as voice recording being used to make them feel like their answers need to be scripted.
They have experienced unprecedented amounts of technological change throughout their years in the dairy industry.
Hearing some of the other stories that Robert told, I gathered that he used to be incredibly active, but now has had to slow down a lot due to his physical health.
Their children were raised on the farm but all went to University and left the farm.
That the couple genuinely enjoyed our visit, which ended up lasting over 2 hours.
Interview with John via Facetime on Sunday 21 March 2020
Lives in Morrinsville- by Golf Course- lived here 30 years and raised his children here
Massey Graduate – Bachelor of Agricultural Science in 1973
Asked if this could be a device that you can poke in the soil that can tell you about herbicide residues.
Thinks my idea is great.
An on-land drone.
Depending on weed.
“Everyone in Agriculture is trying to minimise herbicide use, but then equally, if we didn’t use herbicides we would just be overrun with weeds and productivity would drop by near half.”
Most of his clients boom spray a quarter of the farm a year. 25% of the farm. For specific weeds
2-4D type spray at a very low-rate to control weeds like buttercup. Broad leaf weeds are effectively killed using this method. They impact on pasture production.
“Your device would be really useful for things like spot spraying of thistles and ragwort.”
“There are two parts to this debate, 1 is, the necessary boom spraying of the whole paddock to stop the weeds that are everywhere through the paddock, and then spot spraying of weeds that normally people would either spot-spray with a backpack or on a 4-wheel machine like ragwort, nodding thistle, winged thistle in particular.”
Chairman of a corporation down in Mangakino that has 3,300 dairy cows and spraying weeds is a major part of what needs to be done.
“The issue we had with your little mobile thing would be the rolling and steep country that we have. That would be where a low-flying drone may be more effective.”
I must define my terrain type to being one that looks at flat to rolling hill.
Drones can lose connectivity in remote areas.
Stakes on the edges of the paddock- dog collars that have stakes
He suggested that 50kg would be a sufficient weighload of the mixture it needs to carry. This is about 3 backpack amounts full.
I originally proposed 150kg, but he said that that is a lot of mixture, especially for spot spraying.
Must consider the distribution of weight.
How does the machine recognise the weed? - his question to me.
Infra-red would be a point of difference.
Could it be worth contacting the lawnmower manufacturers and discussing that there is actually a different use for the chassis that they currently have.( – This is something that could be done later on, but at this point I think there is value in keeping these ideas away from them)
Consideration into who would use it and how.
4 Warratah Standards? – What??
Potential for it to connect to a quadbike?
“We always have been the backbone of the country and we always will and it is never more evident than right at this very instance.”
He was able to help me really think through my ideas so far and word it in a way that helps make my intentions clear. He also posed really good questions.
Happy to provide feedback throughout the project and wants to be able to see how the porject is progressing.
His perspective is practical.
Interview with Dan on Saturday 20 March 2020
Seller of machinery for many years
Around 60 years of age
Most machines are designed in Europe where the ground is flat and they are not encountering as many obstacles as here.
“Environmentally we obviously need to find better ways.”
Broadacre farming tends to happen on the South Island, where intensive farming is taking over. Broadacre tends to use boom spraying.
The design in NZ needs to deal with the contour of the land rather than just the weeds.
Our weeds are becoming glyphosate resistant.
Dandelions no longer die from glyphosate- a broadleaf weed
He now works for a contracting firm for NZTA, who sprays the sides of motorways.
A lot of the chemicals they are using are no longer proving to be effective against the weeds that they are trying to combat.
Organo-silicone- breaks down the wax on the plants which is where the resistance is. Just another chemical needing to be used in the combat against weeds.- More pressure being placed on the earth.
“Truthfully, the world hates Roundup, then it shifted because, people understood that Roundup is more than just a company name and now they hate Glyphosate.”
“They (people) don’t understand that I am not out their to kill their world, they don’t understand I don’t use insecticides, I only use herbicides.”
Often farmers are customising the machinery to suit their needs.
While the farms have gotten bigger, the fences (races) have not gotten wider so the equipment you are needing to use still has to fit through those.
His emphasis was that the main innovation lies in the chemical and not in the application.
Nozzles- advancements in that. Shielding in the nozzle and droplet sizing.
The machine does not need to be as big if it is eradicating the weed while it is small.
Weeds are seasonal
“The machinery needs to be as smart as the weed”
“A machine that only does one job can be designed to do it at very low pressures.”
Thinks that the wealthy would like my idea.
Lots of machinery made in Europe in Italy.
While you might not have spray drift, you can still smell it- not inventing spray that you can’t smell.
Plane spraying of huge crops.
The different sprays for the different crops.
The amount of product that the device can carry is really important.
Spray residue on the soil, means that nothing can be replanted there for 90 days
If the soil is disturbed then the soil residue that has created a cover on it is not as effective.
“Weeds are just plants growing in the wrong place.”
Many crops are also sprayed. We just don’t know about the nasties on it.
“If you are devising machinery to work in this country, the machinery we have got needs to be finessed.”
Either the chemical or the machine needs to be changed.
All farmers are using weed killers such as glyphosate and then they add to it to eradicate their particular type of weed.
Woody-weedkiller- gorse, blackberry
Surfactant to break down waxy coatings
Nutsedge- looks exotic but does not die.
The workers are either forced to add something stronger to eradicate the weed or they have to do twice the work.
South Island grow lots of seed crops. – sprayed around them with weakened Glysophate so now the seeds are resistant to it, and so they end up with dirty seed which takes a long time to fix to eradicate the foreign seeds.
Dirty seeds going with the clean seeds and they are Glyphosate resistant, meaning that they are being introduced to a country as an invasive species.
People don’t understand that the more sustainable options cost exponentially more.
“Your greenness comes at a cost.”
The maintenance of weeds means that whoever is doing it needs to be actively maintaining it in a sustainable manner.
Hawkes Bay grow vegetables and wine.
Every plant has a different weed problem and weed answer.
They have been growing potatoes in the Waikato for 10 years, and on this one particular property that was primary dairy land they planted it, but now they can’t plant anything there anymore… what have they done to the soil?
Ploughing maize back into the soil for carbon.
Glyphosate- cheap, effective, less-harm supposedly.
While many innovative machines are brought into New Zealand, hardly any of them have been designed here. – That is a good point of difference.
Machinery often manipulated here to suit their needs. -adding more uses to it.
In Australia they used a rubbish compactor to create hay bales at one point.
Ingenuity of Kiwis
Flat to rolling hills-
People are not farming on terraced hills, except for sheep grazing.
200kg minimum suggested by Dan as the weight carried on a little motorbike.
The idea of not pre-mixing the chemicals. – Having it so that the machine mixes the ratios of herbicide to water.
Crop planting is variable distances apart in New Zealand as opposed to other countries where they rail-way track the planting lanes.
Designing a machine that works well with the current systems that are in place
The benefit of big spray boom arms, less driving over the paddock, less comprehension, less fuel usage, less time.
Recommends I establish what the size of the average paddock is.
Land size, type of chemical and method of application is important
Cost- Some of the smaller containers can be really expensive and are much more concentrated, but the benefit would be the weight of the herbicide that you are adding to the machine
The lifespan of the herbicide is also important.
The residual effect of the herbicide on the soil.
Labour intensive = Cost Intensive
Chemicals that kill the roots of the plants tend to be incredibly strong and harmful to people
Lack of Personal Protection equipment during the spraying process.
Steam weeding- Is it as effective as some other methods? - Is it over used.
Has contacts to spraying contractors
The chassis can be variable
Suggests it to be built for the majority for it to be successful.
“Time is the most precious thing we have, and if we aren’t out spraying weeds we could be spending it with our kids and grandkids.”
Flame weeders, steam weeders and electric weeders is what he has worked with.
“Alternative weeding systems are only as good as the time you have got to do it.”
Issue with pulling weeds is that lots of weeds have tap roots.
Weeds hold soil together- can cause erosion and slips on banks
New Zealand is Selenium deficient- so they inject a lot of cows with it often.
At what stage of the weed is it a problem.
Define the type of farming. Horticulture and or Agricultural
Born in Te Aroha
A LOT of emphasis on chemical change rather than new products.
The system involved in the product.
If you can kill a weed before it seeds you wont have to weed again.- But weeds will do anything in its power to procreate.
Eradicating weeds while small will be a big point of difference.
Waikato Technical Institute taught people how to sell stuff
Functionality is king.
How quickly things are going to develop over the next few years.
More than happy to help.
“This country needs people like you so that we don’t need to buy elsewhere.”
Interview with BB on Saturday 20 March 2020
Regional Manager for Donaghys- Agricultural company
Manufacturers with a factory down in Dunedin
Manufacture animal health products such as drenches, agrichemicals and minerals and probiotics, tail paint
They provide these products to large farm stores such as PGG wrightson and Farmsource
Weeds are bad for dairy farming, makes it unproductive and weeds are unpalatable to cows.
Deals with pastures mainly.
Maize, sorgem can be grown as feed for the cows
Thistles, ragwort, gorse, dock, buttercup, willow weed, waterpepper, prickly pear, in our area.
Discusses Picloram (base ingredient) - Agpro -that will kill everything but the grass.
Tordon Brushkiller, Boss, Trypic, Conquest
Deals with large farms
Some use tractors, some use motorbikes that can spot spray. Benefits of spraying just after the cows have eaten there is that more of the roots will be exposed.
The motorbike idea works because it can be done while waiting for the cows to walk into the next paddock.
“Weed control is an issue everywhere.”
“I think if farmers were to adapt it they would want something that is effective but also cost effective, simple to use, and works well.”
Ingenuity to want to build it to suit their needs.
Singular tank with herbicide.
People tend to mix as much as they need when it comes to their spot spraying. – But how can we minimise waste in this?
Some chemicals are able to last longer and don’t go off as easily.
Napsack levels of pressure will be fine to put out.
PPE- The misuse of it and allowing minimised contact between chemicals and people.
Benefit is the labour-saving element. Cost effective.
Human error is a big factor- 60% of them might get left behind if it was done
Time saving factor. Spraying during the summer is not pleasant in the heat.
Accuracy of the application.
“Everything needs to be recorded and when they sprayed it and what chemical they used on it.”
If the farmer could get feedback on when the spraying happened and whether the situations are getting better or worse.
Information is power.
Bertolini for nozzle options. – they manufacture big boom sprayer.
The roots are the big issues.
Birds, dung, all types of things can be carriers of weeds.
Speed of the device.
Charging of the device- at the cowshed?
Interview Greg on Sunday 21 March 2020
Store Manager at STIHL
Durable with clear benefits, a product that is easy to use and looks like it will save time.
They sell weed spraying napsacks, tools.
The idea that my idea could be implemented into a lawnmower type of idea.
Will need to be easy to service or maintain
The idea that people form attachments to the products that they own.
Kiwi ingenuity- idea of making variable parts so that the person can build the device to suit their needs.
Cost effectiveness plays a big role in decisions
Time saving qualities.
Easy to service and repair.
Brands play a huge role in how customers perceive a product as well as their likelihood of purchasing it.
The shop sells primarily STIHL products which all has a shared form language which makes it distinguishable.
Farmers are very loyal to their brands.
Will need to define the size of the land that I am dealing with.
Could charge in the cowshed.
Bigger wheels than the iMow
Interview with Aaron, Dairy Farmer
I have made observations and videos of some of the operational parts of his interview
California Thistles- spray boom on the quadbike with which he spots sprays. He says that it does knock the grass a bit.
The weeds that grow on the riverbanks. – run off into waterways
Has a big
Has always been a farm boy, and while he does not own a large farm, he has a few livestock that allows him to be self-sustainable and make some money each year.
He does not use all of the chemicals each time he sprays and so utilises a type that does not go off when it is mixed with water.
The device will need to be sturdy and durable and have a sense of reliability to it.
Storing it in the cowshed or garage.
Currently has long pipes when he is spot spraying remotely.
Also has a napsack but does not use this with PPE often.
From the interviews, I compiled all the key points that was raised and split them by colour onto a large makeshift pin-board. Visualising some of the areas of opportunities, frustrations and tensions that should be explored in my design research and some key things that will be important to add into my next design criteria version.