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Eventful two years for couple, home and away

Eventful two years for couple, home and away

It has been an extremely busy two years for Manawatu couple Mat and Jana Hocken, with international travel, writing, speaking and an additional land purchase figuring strongly in their already full lives.

Last season the family business added a 161ha block to their 1000 cow, 290ha effective operation near Feilding. The new property, ten minutes drive away, is used to graze young stock and grow silage. Mat, a Nuffield Farming Scholarship recipient, says his father rang him about the potential purchase while Mat was in the Andes in Chile.”

“The mobile reception wasn’t great but the message I got was that it was just what we were looking for. We were outgrowing our then run-off and it was a good chance to become totally self-contained and reduce our risk around biosecurity.”

Their eight staff members have been an essential asset, especially considering Mat’s scholarship commitments in 2017/2018 and Jana’s career as a lean management expert consulting to companies both nationally and internationally.

Lean manufacturing is a methodology that focuses on continuous improvement through the elimination of waste, maximising productivity, reducing costs and saving time, while building a people focused culture. After meeting in Brussels and living and working overseas, Jana and Mat transitioned to farming in Manawatu in 2013.

Jana continued to work internationally as a consultant, but quickly saw the need for lean management principles in New Zealand dairy farming.

“I immediately identified how much opportunity there is in farming for lean manufacturing principles and it was absolutely fundamental to the industry.”

In recent years, the Hocken’s and their team have implemented these systems. Jana has also developed a lean farm training programme for Open Country Dairy, rolled out in 2017 to more than 100 farmers nationwide.

“It was incredibly successful to the point that they want to run more workshops with farmers, but I’m also running a client workshop with Dairy Australia in April and May.” “Farmers want this, they find it really valuable.”

As a result of this strong interest, Jana decided to write a book based on the training she has developed. The Lean Dairy Farm, released globally in March, is published by Wiley, and is available in bookshops and online through all major booksellers. (www. theleandairyfarm.com)

“It’s based on our journey on-farm and my practical experience working with Toyota and as a lean consultant. I’ve tried to keep it very simple and highly practical.”

Any farmer, even without any experience in lean systems can implement the principles in the book, Jana says. After winning the Nuffield Farming Scholarship in 2017, Mat travelled to 14 countries studying farmer-led innovation.

His travels included South America, North America, Canada, United Kingdom, Europe, Australia and Israel, taking in all aspects of the supply chain in horticulture, agriculture, apiculture, and aquaculture.

Mat’s research focused on how to improve the process of Ag innovation in New Zealand through farmer and grower led collaborative networks to solve the world’s “wicked” problems.

“I looked at innovation and the places that really stuck out for me were Israel, the Netherlands, Silicon Valley, Chile to an extent, and also picked up some great points through the UK and Europe.” A key takeaway was the benefits of a collaborative network.

“A lot of these challenges facing the agriculture sector, and more broadly, are very difficult to solve as one person or even as one sector.”

An example he saw in the United States was Silicon Valley developing automation as a solution to labour shortages in horticulture, while in Israel, the desert nation is thriving in agriculture and horticulture through irrigation provided by large-scale desalination of sea water.

Since completing his scholarship Mat has been involved in setting up the Rural Innovation Lab (www.ruralilab.net.nz) based out of Manawatu; it was launched by the Minister for Agriculture, Damian O’Connor on February 26.

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