Meet our Lighthouse Farmer, Richard Fowler.

Richard is a 3rd generation farmer and, along with his wife Amy, he’s been dairy farming for 15 years. They have three children, Hadlee - 13, Grace - 11, and Briar - 10. Richard qualified with a Bachelor of Agriculture from Lincoln University and then spent around five years working for Landcorp, in both Canterbury and then southern Bay of Plenty. He is a competent user of Farmax and Overseer, but does not have a lot of time for those these days, as he is overseeing several farms in association with his family.

Richard also has a Nuffield Farming scholarship under his belt. He has said it broadened his experience seeing farmers face difficult times in the United States. He noted, “there is nothing like a crisis to drive innovation and collegiality among farmers to face change.”

Richard and Amy have a 100 ha farm in the Rotorua Lakes and work alongside their parents 100 ha dairy farm in the top of the catchment on Allport road. Both dairy farms rely on an extensive support block, on Lichenstein Road.

Richard was originally in the farmer group that was consulted around the Kaituna River changes. This sparked his interest in catchment group functions, and from there, he has become actively involved in the Wai Kōkopu programme, partnering with the farm systems team to better understand the farm’s emissions numbers, to water and atmosphere.

Richard noted it is important to know your numbers, your baseline, and develop a proactive plan forward. As this is both an opportunity and a journey, it takes some strategic planning.

On utilising Overseer, Richard was surprised the nitrogen leaching was as high as it was, but that inspired him, saying it gives him heaps of room to improve. In response, he is taking the pressure off the runoff, but also taking on another 100 ha to reduce his stocking rate on the steeper hills at the top of the catchment.

Richard has also partnered with the Wai Kōkopu farm systems’ restoration team, with co-funding from the Bay of Plenty Regional Council, to retire and protect 15 ha of vulnerable land on the Lichenstein Road block. Around 10% of the operating farm area is being retired and restored with good fencing, and pest management underway.

Richard has always been proactive, investigating how to farm profitably with less nitrogen (N). On his Rotorua dairy block, the farm is growing 16 tonne DM of Pasture with only 30 kg N per ha applied per year.

He knows that farming for the future means doing the right thing. Good information and data are fundamental to making good plans, and the next step with Wai Kōkopu is to investigate the carbon sequestration opportunities on the steeper land, where the pasture harvest on the hills is around half that of the better country that he is dairying on.

“Having accurate information, on where you are at and where you can go, gives us confidence to get fit for the future”.


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