THE SWEETEST CACOPHONY
Giving 3% to the people who give 100%.

Our farmers have more on their minds than sheep. Each sheep station runs projects that regenerate the land and protect the indigenous creatures that inhabit it through innovative tech solutions and local knowledge - the perfect combination of data analysis and getting their hands dirty. 



As part of our Radical Farming Fund, we invest 3% of our revenue into these projects. They are selected with the help of ZQ’s Regenerative Index (ZQRX), a new collaborative action platform that works with growers to develop strategies for their farming systems, designed to continuously improve their performance against key indicators across the Regenerative Index.

 

The project which was selected to be rolled out as a world-first with the Ross Family - owners of Lake Hāwea Station - focuses on Predator Control and Native Birdlife Monitoring. 
We call it: The Sweetest Cacophony.
The Cacophony bird monitors work by recording periodically throughout the day, averaging 35 x 60 sec recordings in a 24-hour period.
The recordings are very useful for measuring the amount of bird song and how these change in frequency and volume over time. This will give LHS a really good baseline value to measure the impact of their predator control and reforestation efforts.

The songs the monitors pick up are translated into graphs the on the Cacophony Index System. These show how useful the recordings are, so those with higher values (higher = green) mean that there’s a strong indication of volume on the recording.
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THE SWEETEST CACOPHONY.

Over 4000 species in New Zealand risk becoming extinct. This means losing more than 80% of native birds, bats, reptiles and frogs. The villains of this story are three invasive species: stoats, rats, and possums, all introduced to the country by sailors in the 19th century. Their population has run unchecked and now they hunt everything and anything. These days, if too many exist in an area, an eerie silence prevails– the absence of birdsong, croaking frogs, and hissing lizards. Lake Hāwea Station intervened to rebalance this human-made disaster.

As part of their commitment to regenerative farming, Lake Hāwea Station actively plants native bush to sequester carbon and provide habitat for the native birds. One block of this native bush is home to the nationally critically endangered Grand Skink, or Mokomoko in Māori. Lake Hāwea Station are trapping around this block to protect these taonga from predators (Māori language word which refers to a treasured possession in Māori culture). This is New Zealand’s rarest reptile. It is now found in only 8% of its former range and has the highest possible threat status. Until very recently it was feared that the Mokomoko could be functionally extinct (reach a no-return population number) within a decade. Because it is difficult and invasive to directly measure the Mokomoko population, as a proxy Lake Hāwea Station is using Cacophony bird monitors to measure the change in bird life.
The Cacophony Index was named after Captain Cook’s first impression of New Zealand, when he described a “cacophony of birdsong” (somewhat ironically, perhaps). This technology provides a real-time measurement of bird populations through their sounds, and feeds data directly back to the station. If Lake Hāwea Station is successful at reducing the predators then the bird life will increase and so will the Mokomoko population.
There is no mobile reception in the remote part of the station where the monitors were installed, so they were set-up with a solar panel and a memory card. The latter will need to be retrieved from time to time to download the recordings to the Cacophony servers. Two additional bird monitors were installed at the homestead (with power and Wi-Fi) and in Timaru Creek (solar and mobile data) where native re-planting is happening. 
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Lake Hāwea Station is already home to a number of native New Zealand birds. The team was fortunate enough to see an adult and junior Rifleman/Titipounamu (New Zealand’s smallest native bird) while installing the bird monitor. The hope is that through the work they are doing this number will increase significantly. Currently, the system automatically recognises only the Morepork song (a native NZ owl) and will continue growing its database as the AI recognition improves. By making the recordings now, they will be able to analyse and compare them in the future, thus measuring the impact of their work as well as making informed, data-led decisions on how to maximise their efforts going forward.



The Radical Farming Fund was created because we believe data can lead the way, and guide smart and impactful investments. That technology can work harder for us, and better serve our Planet and People. That fact-based intelligence can shine a light, and trace the path to a better future.
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