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Let's meet our challenges with smarter work

I can’t speak for the primary industries as a whole, but I like to think I’m informed about agriculture having worked across the industry in a variety of roles.

I’m an advocate for change through innovation. Let’s try stuff and learn from our mistakes. I know I’ve made plenty of them. One example was when employing variable rate irrigation technology on the farm. It failed spectacularly the first time, but after some learning and tinkering, it came right and optimised the system.

It is about working smarter.

I’ve chosen to get into agritech while still running my farm. It is so important for the sector that we improve our farming ecosystem. My former employer, Ngāi Tahu, is now using agritech systems from my current employer, Halter, on two of their eight dairy farms. That is the kind of collaboration and innovation our industry needs to progress and become world leading.

Our sector has two immediate challenges – labour shortages and connectivity. These go hand-in-hand because the shortage compels us to come up with technological solutions, and good connectivity is required to make that happen. I’m chuffed the Fit for a Better World strategy is addressing that through its focus on productivity.

Long-term, the biggest challenge for our sector is climate change. We’ve made loads of progress on water quality, but my sense is it has exhausted many farmers. It’s crucial we keep going. We just can’t afford not to adopt more climate-friendly, sustainable farming methods. Fit For a Better World is driving change in this space and as DairyNZ’s climate change ambassador, I’m fully behind that.

As a Māori woman, FFBW’s focus on inclusivity is also very close to my heart. I want all Kiwis to care about and feel connected to our areas of cultural significance.

My vision is for Aotearoa to be world-leading in farming systems. I want our farmers to use the best technology and have the most environmentally sustainable approach. We should be always looking to evolve and improve,  always looking to push where farming can go.

Farming is the ink of Aotearoa. I’m passionate about it and I want to work with farmers to enhance our systems. 

Ash-Leigh Campbell

At 31 years old, Ash-Leigh Campbell has already built an impressive career spanning multiple areas of agriculture. After giving university a go, she worked on a dairy farm and joined New Zealand Young Farmers (NZYF). A few years later she was responsible for 2000 dairy youngstock before heading back to university for a second crack at it. Campbell went on to South Island Iwi, Ngāi Tahu, where she was Technical Farm Manager, and became involved in governance as NZYF’s national chairperson. In 2016, she became the first ever wahine finalist in the Ahuwhenua Young Māori Dairy Farmer Awards. And last year, Dairy Women’s Network named her Fonterra Dairy Woman of the year. Campbell now share-milks her own 900-cow farm and works at agritech company Halter.