Farmers looking to use computers for their businesses have a chance to upskill

Farmers across New Zealand are being encouraged to register for courses to help them get the best out of their computers for their businesses. The aim is that by helping boost computer skills, farmers can save valuable time and make better business decisions.

The courses, many of which start in May, are developed and funded by the Red Meat Profit Partnership (RMPP), a Primary Growth Partnership programme. They have been designed to appeal to farmers new to technology and those keen to take their skills to the next level. Around 130 farmers attended courses throughout NZ last year.

The Getting Started course takes farmers through the first steps, including using email and exploring the internet. The next level, Using Farm Data, introduces farmers to spreadsheets and online farm management tools and software.

Farmer Tony Marett, who leases 500 acres at Mt Somers in Mid-Canterbury, says he had been in "denial" about getting computer savvy and was totally reliant on his wife to do anything around technology, including emails.

However, since doing both the courses last year, he's now using his PC to do farm mapping and is in the process of setting up AgriMap farm management software, having been introduced to it through the second course.

"I really needed to upskill and my wife tells me I'm not a particularly good pupil for her to teach, so the RMPP courses were ideal," said Tony.

"I began with the Getting Started course, last winter. That covered the absolute basics, which I needed. Then I went on to the next level which expanded on that and covered some things we hadn't done before. They were both really good.

"AgriMap is definitely going to be useful to get away from some of the paper trail. Initially we will be using it for book-keeping and audits. Getting all that in digital form will be more efficient and also means I can do more via my mobile phone."

Farmer Hamish McLean, of Burwood Station at Te Anau, said when three of his workers signed up for the courses, he thought he'd better go too "to keep up with them".

"It was good," said Hamish. "We already had Agri360 but we learnt more about using it. We put all our records on it. If we are drenching a mob of sheep that goes straight into Agri360 and we can do that from the yard. We use it for mapping and the guys all put their time sheets through it too."

RMPP General Manager Michael Smith says more farmers are adopting new tools and technologies to help them make better business decisions.

"Farmers who use IT to measure and monitor their results find it easier to use that information to fine tune their practices and increase their profits," said Mr Smith.

"For instance, one farmer from Gisborne told us he used to take up to three days to set a good set stocking plan and now he can do it in a couple of hours.

"Some people find technology scary but the courses are designed to take that into account. We get plenty of 'aha' moments during the classes when everything starts to fall into place.

"We start off with the basics, from turning on the computer through to using email, a word processor and the internet – with a focus on websites that are useful for farmers. The second course covers simple practical ways to use software to support your farm management."

Both courses are eight hours long and spread over half days or evenings. For details on where and when they are available, call Deb on 0800 273 337. Details are also available on the RMPP website at