Hand for the land
– FarmMap4D’s ability to map ground cover is critical to show producers the impact of their decisions
- Graeme Hand
- Property owner, Victoria
- Regenerative Agriculture (RA) consultant
For Graeme, FarmMap4D provides verifiable and auditable data on the impact of RA and has impressed his American clients with the program’s ability to demonstrate the benefits of regenerative grazing at scale.
Mapping ground cover over time is critical to analyse changes and assess managment, helping impact producer behaviour.
“Because it uses satellite imagery to analyse changes, FarmMap4D’s fractional ground cover tool gives producers nowhere to hide,” Graeme says.
“You can’t kid yourself that you’re a good manager if you’re not maintaining ground cover.”
To gain verifiable and auditable data on the impact of regenerative grazing.
“That’s important because the whole argument about regenerative agriculture and the impact of agriculture on climate change requires trust in research results,” Graeme says.
Graeme has been a proponent of regenerative agriculture since the mid 1990s and through his company Hand For The Land assists farming businesses to regenerate topsoil and pasture, increase biodiversity, improve the water cycle and boost their resilience to climate change.
For 20 years he’s worked as an adviser and consultant to Peter and Anja Raynolds, third generation beef producers on their 800ha beef farm ‘Neringla’ at Araluen, NSW, where RA principles have been practiced since 1999.
“FarmMap4D allows us to look at what’s been done on ‘Neringla’ and provides verifiable and auditable data on the impact of regenerative grazing. ” Graeme says.
FarmMap4D provides verifiable and auditable data on the impact of RA.
The fractional groundcover tool runs an algorithm over data from satellites which breaks each pixel into 3 components – the percentage of green grass, non-green matter and bare ground. A graph coloured green, blue and red shows how each component changes through time, based on 30 years’ worth of data.
Groundcover data that’s easy to read
“I present clients with a PDF graph of their ground cover relative to neighbouring properties, by setting the radius within 5km or 10km of the farm.
It’s relative ground cover, not absolute, but it provides information that shows when your ground cover is decreasing.”
“I hadn’t predicted how engaging FarmMap4D would be for owners and investors,”
Indicators to act upon
Graeme remembers when he first realised the importance of acting on ground cover indicators, when he delayed selling cattle from the property he owned at Branxholme, in Victoria’s Western District.
“I’d driven 11 hours home from Dubbo to find that rats had chewed through the wires in the roof, so by the time I’d restored the power I was too tired to get the cattle in and sell them,” Graeme recalls.
“The cost of that missed action was the loss of ground cover from grazing over summer. I could have paid someone $400 to get the cattle on a truck and I would’ve saved $10,000 in lost pasture.”
Engaging data for owners AND investors
“Absentee owners really like it, where I was thinking it would only be the managers. I know a Melbourne business manager with properties in Gippsland, and he feels that it gives him the assurance that management is going well.
“Agriculture is usually seen as very high risk by superannuation funds and big business, but FarmMap4D is incredibly good at educating large, non-farm-based groups making decisions about land management, because it eliminates risk through results.”
Enabling implementation of Regenerative Ag
He sees the fractional ground cover tool as providing high quality feedback which enables producers to implement the three-pronged approach of regenerative grazing – recovery between grazing events, stocking density and the utilisation of perennial grasses.
“At ‘Neringla’ we can demonstrate that we’ve disconnected from rainfall. We can increase ground cover even though rain has been declining, and planned grazing has been the key – grazing pastures hard and giving them long recovery times,” says Graeme.
“Planned grazing addresses the three main risks – debt, rainfall and market price. We use stocking rate as the brake and accelerator of the farm, with a trigger point based on the ground cover data.
“If that’s declining, we reduce the stocking rate, whereas some people would supplement the feed or increase fertiliser or plant crops, which are all very expensive ways to feed animals.”
Looking for change
He’s been training people in regenerative agriculture since 1996 but Graeme says he still isn’t seeing enough change on the ground. He’d like to see more farmers benefit from change on the ground.
“In areas like southern WA which has been through big changes, people are more open to information and management tools that will help them survive,” he says.
“The harsher the environment, the more adoption increases, whereas in the safer farming areas it is very forgiving and there’s less impetus to re-design the system. “