Innovative Wairarapa farmer, technology pioneer and founder of CRS Software, Ian Campbell, has passed away.
Campbell was ahead of his time, an early adopter of technology, and he saw the value it could add to farming businesses.
Both in farming, and in the IT space, he had the vision and tenacity to push the boundaries and give things a go.
CRS Software owner and managing director, Brian Eccles, says Campbell was a consummate innovator, experimenter and early adopter. “He was also tenacious, persistent and amazingly focused. If he set his mind to a task – he made it happen. But he was also very practical and had amazingly good judgement.”
The early days, L-R: Ian Campbell, David Howden and Brian Eccles.
Eccles first crossed paths with Campbell and his family when he went to work at their Mount Bruce farm, Awarua, in 1980, even then Campbell was utilising technology on the farm.
At the time Campbell ran the Central Flock for the Wairarapa Romney Improvement Group – there was always plenty of work managing so many recorded ewes. “This was early days for the objective recording of animals but Ian was determined to measure performance and objectively select the best sires. However keeping all these records on paper was challenging,” Eccles says.
“One day several boxes appeared in Ian’s office. It was a computer! Intrigued, I watched Ian connect it up. I was told it cost $14,000 dollars. Eventually Ian got a winking cursor on the screen. His face beamed.”
After a few weeks of total immersion in the office, day and night, he had recorded 200 ram hoggets, along with various weights and the sire and dam information. He touched a button and it averaged the weights, another button sorted the list. Another grouped the results by sire.
He went on to use Shirley (as the computer was known) to display maps of the farm and use it to solve the puzzle of which ewes to put into each paddock for lambing. They also measured grass and recorded this in Shirley, displaying each paddock in a different colour. When picking the elite sires or culling ewes, Shirley provided printouts of every detail know about the animal, its sire and its dam and any progeny. All animals were objectively ranked.
Eccles recalls that their farm advisor, David Baker, was a whizz at preparing budgets with pen and paper. A comment he made that a computer would never be able to do a budget faster than his pencil was like a red rag to a bull for Campbell.
This was the start of Computer Concepts, now known as CRS Software, which produces Cashmanager RURAL.
The company began trading in 1981 and Campbell was the key software designer and developer for the first 10 years.
“Updates rolled off the production line at great frequency. Ian’s innovative thinking is still strongly evident in the product we sell today. Today $10 billion of farming revenue is managed by the software. The benefit to New Zealand farming families, and to NZ in general, is massive,” Eccles says.
Baker himself remembers Campbell for his willingness to undertake farm trial work that would benefit the whole Wairarapa farming community.
In 1969 this commenced with a trial looking at copper and selenium interactions and benefits. This was followed by some of the first investigation of selenium bullets, supplied by Lincoln University.
Later, Campbell was prepared to have comprehensive fertiliser trial plots laid down on Awarua. These continued for three years in the early 1970’s.
“There were a number of other trials or new innovations that Ian was prepared to participate in. For example; the first grass electric fencing; There was the early use of farm scales; Freeze branding; gathering porina, and looking at new grass species, to name a few,” Baker says.
Campbell was prepared to challenge traditional thinking and to adopt new technology for moving forward.
“Farm Improvement Club (FIC) members and I wish to particularly acknowledge Ian’s contribution to writing the first financial analysis recording programme for FIC members. This replaced the former hand compiled statistics that were annually prepared. The special development was that this enabled the integrated recording of both physical and financial data that could be used to provide a district benchmark for all Wairarapa FIC members. This showed an individual member’s results compared with the average for comparable properties and the top 10%.
“Ian’s encouragement and vision was well ahead of its time and was the base for the FAB analysis that is the cornerstone of BakerAg’s programme that is still produced annually,” Baker says.
Campbell is survived by his wife Isabel and daughter, Gill.