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New Kiwi invention repurposes cow urine to help save the planet

A Kiwi company says it's found a fix for one of the biggest environmental problems facing New Zealand - the run-off from dairy farming.

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A Kiwi company says it's found a fix for one of the biggest environmental problems facing the country. Source: 1 NEWS

It may look like any old tractor tool, but it could help to save the planet.

With every pass of the paddock the invention finds patches of cow urine and puts the pee to purpose.

"As a farmer, this is the exciting part about it - leading technology, right at the cutting edge of science," farmer Lachlan McKenzie told 1 NEWS.

Cow urine is a massive issue for farmers, carrying nitrates which can both pollute waterways and drive climate change.

But nitrates also helps grass grow, so why not find a way to stop it running down river?

The invention from Kiwi company Pastoral Robotics is the answer.

"We want to hold that nitrogen and just release it at the rate the grass can use it, and that gives you a lot more grass growth at the end of the day, and feeds it back into the farm system," managing director Geoffrey Bates told 1 NEWS.

It has spikes that function as electrodes, identifying urine patches and treating them with chemicals that help to lock it in the soil, where it can be used by grass.

They've been trialing a machine on farms in Rotorua and seeing a 30 to 50 per cent reduction in leaching.

"When you drive around, three to four days after the paddocks been treated, you can see a distinct pattern in the paddock where the cows have urinated," Rotorua farmer Alan Paterson says.

The real secret to the machine's success is that it's a rare win-win - it saves the environment while helping the farmer make money at the same time.

Pastoral Robotics plans to roll out another 10 machines this year before mass production begins.

"They're about $75,000, plus it needs a tractor that's available to use it, so it's significant investment, but the return on that is huge," Mr Bates says.

Time will tell whether this Kiwi invention really can help to solve the world's nitrate problem.