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Answers to some frequently asked questions

This page includes:

Starting out with OverseerFM

Where can I find detailed user help?

For detailed information on how to use Overseer, see where you can download the User Guide, release notes and the Data Input Standards.
For Science Model Information, you can download technical notes, manuals and peer review reports.

How is data stored in OverseerFM?

OverseerFM Farm Account information is stored in a central database on a secure server. This was set up in response to concerns that there was significant duplication of effort within the industry as different parties modelled the same farm separately. The centralised data storage delivers greater auditability of analysis for quality assurance and provide an easy transition between model updates.

Who can access the data?

Once a farm account owner (farmer or farm manager) is registered, the farm account owner decides who should have access to their farm information. The farm account administrator can also grant and revoke permissions to information, and the farm account owner can control administrator access.
The Year-End analysis (which models historic management practices for baselining, monitoring and reporting) are available to all parties with permission to access a farm account. Predictive and scenario analysis are private to the business developing them. 

Can I save OverseerFM information on my computer or elsewhere?

All OverseerFM data is stored in a database on a secure server. A farm account owner can share access to their farm account information held in this central database by giving permission to other registered users. It is possible to update farm account information offline, however an internet connection is required for the model to run.

OverseerFM Glossary of Terms

  • Every user that registers is placed into an organisation. A user can only belong to one organisation at a time but can move between organisations.
  • An organisation contains one or more users. This may be an actual organisation, a user group or it may hold an individual user.
  • farm account contains the information on a farm. There is only one account per farm, so anyone wanting to work on a farm that is already in the model will need to request access to the account from the farm owner. All changes to farm account information are logged so they can be easily traced.
  • Farm account permissions are granted to an organisation and so all users within that organisation get access to that farm account.
  • A farm account contains analyses (year end, predictive and scenario) that can be published to organisations. All users with permission will have access to the year-end analysis, but predictive and scenario analysis are private to the business developing them.
  • publication is a published analysis. Publications are made available to organisations 
  • The farm owner represents the farm, e.g. farmer or farm manager or administrator. The owner will be able to grant permission to access the farm account to organisations or consultancies that they work with.


Using the legacy OVERSEER Nutrient Budgets software

The legacy OVERSEER Online software was retired on 30 June 2019

If you have farm files stored in your OVERSEER Online account, then you can download them for now but you can't run or view any results.This includes any folders, files and XMLs you have created and stored in your account. 

OverseerFM, our new software, is not linked to OVERSEER Online and the information stored in one is not available in the other. If you've already downloaded your files, the next step is to register for OverseerFM for free (this link will take you to the OverseerFM software).

How to download your farm files

1. We strongly recommend that you update your farm files to OVERSEER version 6.3.1.
2. Download all files that you wish to keep and save them - each file will need to be downloaded individually, there's no option to do a bulk download.
3. It's good practice to keep two back-ups on your computer hard drive, cloud storage or memory stick.
4. Register for OverseerFM and check to see if your farm account exists. If not, you can create a farm account then upload your XML files. See the user guides section for detailed information on how to get started in OverseerFM.


OverseerFM is very different to the legacy OVERSEER software

OverseerFM is structured around the Farm Account, not a user account. Farm Accounts represent the farm being modelled and can be shared between users who have permission to access the account. You can find out more in the Farm Accounts fact sheet.

To use OverseerFM, you will need to register as a user (this is free).

Once you've registered you can create Farm Accounts or get access to existing Farm Accounts to upload your XML files. We recommend that you upload your XML files into OverseerFM to ensure an easier transition when you do need to update a farm analysis.

Setting up a Farm Account in OverseerFM is free, as is uploading your XML files. There is no time limit on a Farm Account existing in Overseer without a paid subscription. The annual subscription payment of $200+GST for a Farm Account is required when you want to generate new results.

Currently OverseerFM does not support DCD, we will  let you know when it's included. We have now added Outdoor Pig modelling.

Ready to get started but need more help?

When you register for OverseerFM, there is in-app help and a downloadable user guide to step you through. 
Visit the user guides page on our website to help get you started with the OverseerFM User Guide, fact sheets and help videos.

Overseer for educators and scientists

Part of moving to the new OverseerFM service is to ensure we can focus on providing a powerful decision support tool for individual farms.  OverseerFM allows farmers and rural professionals to analyse a farm's current situation and review the impact of different farm management or land use scenarios, which will lead to real change.

But we also have a long history of supporting nutrient management and farm system research and education with Overseer.  To continue to support this we have created two specific services - OverseerEd and OverseerSci. Both software services run off the same science modelling as OverseerFM. OverseerEd enables education providers to teach our next generation of nutrient management specialists how Overseer can support understanding nutrient cycling on a farm. OverseerSci enables scientists and researchers to engage in the development of the Overseer model and undertake farm system science and research. OverseerSci is currently in beta testing and we will let you know when it's ready, OverseerEd is available for education providers. 

Please get in touch at to discuss which software will best meet your needs. We welcome your queries and feedback. 

About Overseer

What does Overseer do?

Overseer models nutrient flows on a farm, delivering nutrient analyses that show what is coming in and going off the farm – when, how and where.
The software uses readily available farm information to predict nutrient losses and greenhouse gas emissions for that farm based on farm management practices.
By modelling different scenarios, farmers can make decisions about management approaches that can improve efficiency in their use of nutrients, improve environmental outcomes, and increase profitability.

How does Overseer work?

Overseer uses existing science understanding (built into a series of sub-models) and readily available farm information to predict the flows of nutrients into, around and off the farm - this is most commonly used to understand nitrate leaching and greenhouse gas emissions.
You can read more in our Overseer Technical Description.

Who owns Overseer?

The Overseer software is jointly owned in equal shares by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI)AgResearch Limited and the Fertiliser Association of New Zealand (FANZ).
The owners established an independent company Overseer Limited in April 2016 to ensure the long-term viability of Overseer and meet growing user needs.
The company is jointly owned in equal ordinary shares by AgResearch and the Fertiliser Association of New Zealand. The Ministry for Primary Industries has equal voting rights alongside the shareholders. It is therefore considered a Public Entity.
Overseer Limited is chaired by one of its two independent Directors and is required to re-invest income into the ongoing improvement of Overseer.

How accurate is Overseer?

Overseer is a modelling tool founded on over 30 years of scientific research. All models are simplifications of complex science, and their predictions will always involve uncertainty. Overseer is no expection. We calibrate Overseer against available real measured data to ensure where those situations exist, there is greater certainty in the results. We also peer review and test the science model so that we are confident that it is doing what we think it should.  
Good quality farm data is essential to good quality Overseer predictions (rubbish in equals rubbish out) and so we have created the Best Practice Data Input Standards to ensure users are guided in identifying the best source of data when using Overseer.

Why does the model use long term averages?

Actual leaching from a farm block will vary, sometimes quite significantly, year-on-year due to variations in weather. Because Overseer was designed to help farmers test the impact of different farm management practices, it removes short term variability (such as weather events) so farmers can make good decisions for the long-term. The model therefore estimates how much nutrient leaching or gas emissions are likely to occur in a typical year if the management system described remains in place. It is not a one-off prediction for a single year. You can read more about this in the Technical Guidance document.
The Overseer results are therefore best used to create a baseline for each farm, and to guide and measure improvement over time. 

Can Overseer predict what’s happening in a particular waterway?

No. Overseer looks at what is happening on a farm, and the modelling stops at the farm boundary. The tool estimates what nutrients are lost beyond where plants can access it in the soil profile (60cm for pasture, 120cm for crops). Overseer can only help understand what’s happening in local waterways by feeeding information about whats leaching from farmland into catchment models.


Using Overseer 

What is the user portal?

The Overseer user portal is a page where users access the tool’s applications and engage with us about using it. It includes:
  • A dashboard for important notices and updates
  • A support page with a search engine for users to look up common questions
  • A helpdesk to contact technical support
  • The user guides and best practice data standards 
  • Science model information including version update release notes and details about the model engine.

What help is available when using Overseer?

Overseer helpdesk is available for any questions that are not listed on the support page. You can log your request through the user portal or email us at Please note, we do not provide an advice service. We aim to respond to emails within 24 hours, unless it is a weekend or public holiday.  

What computer equipment do I need when using Overseer?

OverseerFM is an online application, so you can use it from any computer with internet access.

Can I get training to use Overseer?

Comprehensive training for regular users of Overseer is available through the sustainable nutrient management courses provided by the Fertiliser and Lime Research Centre. These courses use Overseer to illustrate principles in nutrient management.
Massey University, Lincoln University and Waikato University include Overseer as a part of their undergraduate agricultural degree courses.
The industry has established a Nutrient Management Adviser Certification Programme (NMACP), in response to the growing need for sound advice on nutrient management, including producing Overseer nutrient budgets and scenarios. This programme certifies individual advisers, using a transparent set of industry standards. You can find out more on the NMACP website.