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Inside the Kiwi UFB experience - Atihau Whanganui Corporation

20 Sep 2016

The Ultra-Fast Broadband Initiative is a New Zealand Government programme that aims to bring high-speed fibre to 75% of NZ homes and businesses over 10 years.

The company that manages the $1.5 billion project is Crown Fibre Holdings (CFH), a Crown-owned company.

CFH has also partnered up with Northpower, Waikato Networks, Enable Services and Chorus to help implement the initiative.

At this stage, around 19 of New Zealand's towns and cities have access to UFB, providing Kiwi businesses with the opportunity to further improve day to day operations.

Atihau Whanganui Corporation has two offices, one in Whanganui and another in Ohakune. It runs seven sheep and beef stations and one dairy farm.

Chris Scanlan, CEO, says, "because of our history with the farm, we know more or less what we have to do on a farm. It's a question of what we do to support that."

Scanlan explains that they have an absolute need for accurate, speedy and timely data capture from everything going on in their farms.

"Putting it together with off-farm data - things like prices and whatever that comes from meat processors etc are in transferring that to the marvellous FarmHQ, which is a pretty comprehensive database that's actually housed here in Whanganui in the server."

"This has to be a very positive thing and we need to embrace it. Make technology your friend, like we are," he continues.

Campbell Wylie, IT consultant at Computer Care, also believes that the farms have benefited from UFB installation.

"Prior to ultra-fast broadband, the Whanganui office and Ohakune office were on standard broadband connections. The farms were on satellite broadband. We're now on 100Mb/second download and 50Mb/second upload," he says.

"All of the farms log in and work like they're in the office. They can access the databases and/or the systems here," he continues.

Rex and Lisa Martin, farm managers at Ohorea Station, says he has a lot of stock he has to control, with 18,000 ewes and 1800 cows.

"The internet's important to us because of communication, just getting information to and from the office in the best, quickest way possible. With UFB, it's opened up the speed, obviously, makes it easier to get large files through," Lisa says.

Rex "Yeah any files with more than one page, you had to sit there for bloody ages to download it but now you can just print it out and it flies out, really," Rex adds.

Lisa says that UFB has also helped farm photography become a lot smoother - and there's more time to run around after the kids!

"I enjoy doing photography as a hobby and take a lot of photos. On the farm, which helps our farm HQ keep in touch with what's going on in a visual sense, and having ultra-fast has certainly sped that process up too. Keep them in the picture, so to speak," she explains.

"The worst thing for me is on a wet day when you want to be in the office, and then you couldn't do anything. I quite like to spend most of my time out on the farm if I can, and the office job is sort of a chore to me. So you want it to be able to be easy, and it is now. It didn't used to be," Rex says.

Siwan Shaw, farm services manager for Atihau and works out of the Ohakune office, says data collection has also been made a lot easier.

"I'm collecting a lot of information off the farms, as to stock weights, pasture covers, a lot of other data. Before we had the ultra-fast broadband, we have to used to actually go out to the farms to collect this or get the farmers to bring them into the office. And of course, all the farms are quite remote. Now that we've got the UFB, it means that we can get the data in the office a lot quicker," she concludes.

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