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Drones drafted in to track pollution
By JON MORGAN
AERIAL VIEW: Wairarapa farmer and
artist Grant Muir, front, and
Jonathan Olds, from Victoria
University, with one of the drones to
be used in a river pollution study
known as Riverwatch.
Photo: CHRIS SKELTON/FAIRFAX NZ
A PROJECT to monitor river
pollution using aircraft drones is
to be launched this month.
Known as Riverwatch, it has
been developed by Wairarapa
farmer and artist Grant Muir and
his filmmaker son James, with
the help of Victoria University's
school of engineering and
The electric-powered drones, or
unmanned aerial vehicles, will
follow a pre-set course along
rivers, filming from a nose-
mounted camera and taking still
photographs from a belly camera.
They will have a 40-kilometre
When animals are found beside
or in rivers, or signs such as
hoofprints are seen, the GPS
(global positioning system) co-
ordinates will be noted.
The evidence will be posted on
Riverwatch's website, which will
be launched later this month.
The public will also be able to
contribute to the website through
a phone app that attaches GPS co-
ordinates to photographs and
allows comments to be added
before sending them to the site.
If the photographer is out of
cellphone range, the information
will be stored and sent when they
are back in range.
Grant Muir's battles to clear
wandering cattle and sheep from
the waters of Wairarapa's remote
Pahaoa River were filmed by
James in River Dog, a half-hour
documentary that has won
awards in Britain, Spain and at
home in New Zealand.
Riverwatch's purpose was not to
beat up farmers, Grant Muir said.
No matter how good the
intentions of conservationists,
farmers, Fonterra and the dairy
industry, we don't have an
effective way of monitoring what's
going on in the rivers. We know
there's pollution -- we can't
pinpoint where it comes from.
What we found with River Dog
is that a lot of the farmers who do
not support clean rivers live in
isolated areas. This will take them
out of their isolation and put them
out there for all to see.''
He was driven to act after
watching the Pahaoa River.
I hope we're in time with this.
In 2002, the Pahaoa was full of
fish, now they wash up dead.''
An attempt last year to set up a
nationwide river patrol scheme
fell through because canoes could
not always get into isolated areas.
The drones would not fly over
homes or farms.
It will be a fantastic tool to
make the farming industry
better, more compliant. It will be
able to gauge what difference
their efforts are making.''
It could also demonstrate what
was being done to keep rivers
clean, showing fencing and
We're hoping we're going to
give Fonterra, Federated Farmers
and the regional councils a tool
they can use to monitor water
resources at a fraction of the cost.''
Shelterbelts provide income
WINDBREAK WHAMMY: Pinus radiata inoculated with
Bianchetto truffle fungi will allow farms and forestry to turn an
additional income off this hardy tree species.
Photo: ROBERT LAMBERTS, CROP & FOOD RESEARCH
TRUFFLES HAVE been a mainstay of
the gourmet palate for thousands of
years and remain highly sought after,
particularly in French cuisine.
There are three truffle producers in
North Canterbury, and that number is
climbing throughout the wider region,
as Crop and Food research carried out
in Lincoln over the last six years starts
to gain market traction, thanks to a
venture between Southern Truffles and
Southern Woods stocks more than
500 tree species for shelter, forestry,
native revegetation, edible tree crops,
animal fodder, specimen trees and
hedging. Of these, holm oak, turkey
oak, common or English oak and
hazelnut seedlings are available from
the nursery with a guarantee of
successful inoculation with the
Perigord black truffle or the early-
fruiting Bianchetto truffle fungi, for
current or prospective truffieres.
And the firm's recent success in
cultivating Pinus radiata that has been
inoculated with the Bianchetto fungus
now offers farmers a profitable harvest
from a mundane shelterbelt.
Southern Woods general manager
Nalin Gooneratne says the trees are
known as double-whammy pines''.
While Bianchetto is at the lower end
of market demand internationally, this
is still a valuable truffle species, and it
yields fruit in its fourth or fifth year, as
opposed to the more sought-after
Perigord black, which can take up to 10
years to produce a return,'' he said.
We've already seen one or two clients
in Mid Canterbury establishing
truffieres to grow Perigord blacks, but
protecting their new oaks with a pine
shelterbreak that will provide an
earlier income on their investment.''
Inoculation of the trees is based on a
French system, which was honed by
Crop and Food and Southern Truffles.
It takes place under strict quarantine
and hygiene conditions.
Contact Southern Woods on
0800 800 352 or email:
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