Case Study: PETE & ANN MORGAN
Pete and Ann Morgan’s farm is one of a new generation spearheading a proactive and technology-friendly approach to climate change — and the complex future of their industry. Combining UBCO bikes with other new technologies has allowed them to build a robust and future-focused business that promises to become even more streamlined as the technologies converge.
On Pete and Ann Morgan’s Waikato dairy farm, daily operations are already looking pretty different to that of their parents’ generation.
“Although we won’t have any form of carbon tax until 2025, we are trying to position ourselves, in every aspect of our operation, to be ready for it,” says Pete Morgan. “We’ve had the farm for 25 years, and we’ve created a resilient system that can withstand both inflation-shock and environment-shock. That’s where UBCO fits in — as part of our operational strategy.”
The 265-hectare farm recently expanded its fleet to include UBCO utility bikes, which it uses in tandem with Halter, a farm-management system that utilises smart collars and an app rather than physical fencing. Along with GPS tracking, ongoing climate-modelling, and data analysis from live weather feeds, these new technologies have allowed the farm to streamline its operations.
“The way this technology dovetails together has been transformative for our farm,” says Morgan. “It ties everything together, from the way we can respond immediately to external forces such as weather, to the comms we use to flick photos, screenshots and plans between staff and the other groups we’re working with — all while we’re sitting on the bikes.
“It’s particularly enabling for me, as the farm’s owner. I’m still immersed in the business, but everything I need is right there, and I can support the staff and have them connected in terms of what needs doing, where, and how.”
With electric bikes, open gates, and no heavy electric fencing to cart around, the farm has also become a quieter and more focused place, he says, as well as one that is supporting and educating the next generation of young farmers.
One of the ways UBCO has enabled this shift is through its usability for a wider range of people. Without a clutch or gears, the silent, lightweight vehicle also makes it far easier to navigate paddocks and focus on the job. (Morgan particularly appreciates the headlight, which has been incredibly effective for night checks during calving season.)
“Switching from a standard bike that is noisy, heavy, scorching hot, and burns your legs on the exhaust, and makes you feel like you’re fighting it the whole time, has been amazing,” he says. “The centre of gravity in UBCOs is very low because the battery is down near the ground, and most of us can lift it because it only weighs 60kg — compared to 100kg or more for other two-wheelers, or up to 300kg for a four-wheeled vehicle. Everything has been pared back a pace but stepped up in terms of our involvement with the animals, and the ability to observe and experience what’s really going on.”
The farm now has a full-time staff of four (and one part-timer), who are all in their 20s. Given the global attrition of the traditional family farm, Morgan considers it a major part of his role as an established farmer to support the younger generation and make farming accessible to those will contribute to the sustainability of farming in New Zealand.
“Our workforce is definitely more diverse than it used to be, in terms of size, strength and gender. Our manager is a woman, and we have one guy who is brand new to farming — he could run into some serious problems on high-performance vehicles,” says Morgan. “UBCO has enabled that diversity across the way we operate — as well as the way people think about farming.”
In the past, he says, people entering the workforce would spend the first five years being told what to do. Ninety percent of the work would involve heavy lifting, milking, or moving stock; it was extremely manual, very physical and required large vehicles.
“Now, our staff are working at a higher level. They are out there observing the cows and making strategic decisions with us from the outset — it’s important for their education that they’re in the driving seat,” says Morgan.
“That’s what UBCO has enabled for us. We want everyone going slower, paying more attention, and taking their time to observe what’s going on. UBCO has removed the physical barriers so we can all focus on the important parts of the job.”
One of Morgan’s favourite parts of using the bike is the way it has made his workday feel simpler and more organic, particularly during the crucial checks that take place after the herd settles down for the night. Previously, this meant disturbing the cows again with a loud engine, and even walking between them arouses their predator-prey reflex.
“There’s something about the size and pace of an UBCO that lets you glide through the herd like a ghost,” says Morgan. “Even at night, with the big light on, they don’t see a threat. The staff say it feels you’re flying through the paddock — and then there’s the synergy with Halter, because the gate is already open and you can just cruise through. It has given us a lighter footprint, in all senses of the word. And these aren’t just nice little bonuses: these moments are what attracts people to farming in the first place, and what keeps us here for the long term. This technology has enabled us to focus on the truly important parts of farming.”