Beef and sheep farmer Penny Schulz, co-owner and manager of ‘Coolaroo’ in South Australia, has long been an avid adopter of agtech solutions to improve productivity.
Penny runs Schulz Livestock at Field near the Coorong in the southeast of South Australia with husband Jason and mother-in-law Joanne, breeding first cross lambs and operating the Raven Limousin and Lim-Flex stud.
“My husband Jason has been running this farm with his mother since he was 17,” she says.
“He lost his father quite young, which was challenging for him but it has made both of us resourceful and take nothing for granted.
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“I think we’ve always looked for innovative ways of doing things.”
Penny has her finger on the pulse of the latest innovations in the state’s agtech sector working off-farm as a researcher in agtech adoption and teaching agricultural consulting at university.
She is also vice-president of Livestock SA, and now sits on the AgTech Advisory Group founded by Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development Tim Whetstone.
Penny is also pursuing a PhD in rural science, while also consulting to the livestock industry delivering farmer-focused projects.
Schulz Livestock was one of the first adopters of farm management software solution Agriwebb, a platform removing the need to carry a notebook to record stock movements, animal health treatments and pasture management, while also helping to collect the right data to required for audit and compliance purposes.
Penny says the software allows for a better record-keeping process.
“It’s taking the pen and paper and excel spreadsheets out of the business,” she says.
“It helps us to be more efficient and more productive with our time. If an app doesn’t make your life easier why would you use it?
“There are many opportunities with agtech and things are getting cheaper and easier to use.”
Penny predicts technologies such as sensors and automated systems, coupled with connected software programs, will become more predominant in SA farming circles.
“The exciting thing I can see is that some farmers are already going all out with automatic systems within their sheep and cattle yards to help with the management of animals,” she says.
“We have access to new software programs that go that one step further by using data you’ve been collecting and helping make some management decisions that ultimately improve efficiency, increase performance and have enhanced animal welfare.”
Penny isn’t only a user of agtech, but a creator of it too. She recently co-founded an agtech startup with friend and fellow female farmer Jo Williams.
Their FarmStocker app is still under development but aims to help livestock agents to service their clients better and build better relationships between agents and livestock producers.
The app will provide stock agents with an enhanced understanding of their client’s operations, helping improve their business and offer more value to producers.
Despite recent advancements and new innovations in SA’s agtech sector, there is still a need for improved connections between developers and the end-users, Penny says.
“Products really need to start with the end-user in mind and they need to be engaged through the whole development process,” she says.
“Start with an industry problem — a verified pain point — and then find the product solution. Sometimes people get it around the wrong way.
“But that is changing and farmers and developers are being more collaborative and working together.”
SA’s soon-to-be-released inaugural agtech strategy, developed by the state government and the AgTech Advisory Group, aims to understand and breakdown the barriers preventing greater uptake and development of agtech.
“I think agtech is a really exciting space and a great culture is building around agtech in SA,” Penny says.
“Everyone thinks of Sydney and Melbourne as the exciting places to do business in technology, but as far as agtech goes, I think that SA is going to be the place where it’s at.”
This article was first published by The Lead.