Spikey is the flagship product of Pastoral Robotics, a New Zealand company focused on reducing nitrate leaching and greenhouse gas emissions from dairy farming.
Spikey enables farmers to grow more pasture at the same time as reducing nitrogen leaching and nitrous oxide emissions at source – urine patches. It claims to be able to reduce nitrogen losses into the environment by up to 70 per cent.
Managing director Geoff Bates says: “In New Zealand we are aware nitrate loss is a huge issue. We are throwing away nitrogen in a way which costs farmers dearly.”
With his co-founder Bert Quin, the company set out to find a way to effectively treat urine patches.
Fitted to the three-point linkage of a tractor, Spikey finds urine patches using the spiked disks that give it its name. The disks are electrodes, allowing fast and accurate, fresh urine patch detection. The patches are then detected and treated on the fly at up to 16kmph (typical operation is 8-12kmph depending on topography).
Once detected, Mr Bates says Spikey’s spray nozzles jump into action.
He says: “There are three key elements to the treatment: a nitrification inhibitor which slows down the action of urea from urine; a growth promotor, gibberellic acid, which makes the grass grow faster and a third product which increases the rate of de-nitrification.
“There is so much urea in the urine that the soil is unable to use it all before the leaching process begins. So, we slow the process down enabling the plant to have more time to use it.”
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