Answers to some frequently asked questions


What does Overseer do?

Overseer models nutrient flows on a farm, delivering nutrient budgets that show what is coming in and going off the farm – when, how and where.
The software collects detailed farm information to produce a nutrient budget and greenhouse gas report for that farm.
By modelling different scenarios, farmers can make decisions that can improve efficiency in their use of nutrients, improve environmental outcomes, and increase profitability.

How does Overseer work?

To create a nutrient budget, experts enter information about a farm’s physical characteristics (soils, climate and topography) and current management practices (irrigation, stocking rates, fertiliser use, etc).
The software then runs a series of complex sub-models mimicking the changing biophysical processes operating across a farm to model the annual average inputs, transfers and outputs of nutrients and emissions of methane, nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide.
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. There are no other products in the world providing the same level of analysis of a farm system. It has been created to inform good farm management decisions and track trends over time.
All models are simplifications of complex science, and their predictions will always involve some uncertainty. We calibrate Overseer modelling against real measured data (called the calibration data set) to improve the certainty of the model’s estimates. We also peer review and test the science behind the model.
Good quality farm data is essential to good quality Overseer predictions (rubbish in equals rubbish out) and we recommend trained professionals are involved in creating farm budgets that all users follow the Best Practice Data Input Standards.
Importantly, any uncertainty around the model does not impact its ability to track trends over time, or to test the impact of various farm management practices. 

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 [link]
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?

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 help understand what’s happening in local waterways when used alongside additional catchment models.

Why are there so many versions of Overseer?

Overseer is continuously evolving to reflect the latest scientific research and model validation, support changing farming practices, and improve the user experience. And like all software applications, it requires regular updating to fix bugs and make improvements. 
Every update improves how the modelling predicts nutrient flows on farms.


Using Overseer

What is MyOverseer?

MyOverseer is a page where users access the tool’s applications and engage with us about using it. MyOverseer 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 release notes, data standards and user guides
  • Technical information including details about the model engine.

I’m trying to log in, but can’t seem to access the Overseer tool.

Accessing the tool requires two log-ins. You first need to log into MyOverseer, which is the user gateway to the online application. Then you’ll need to enter more log in details to access the tool itself. These passwords might be different, but you can change the password to your online account to match your MyOverseer password at any time.

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 MyOverseer portal. Please note, we do not provide an advice service. We aim to respond to emails within 2-3 days.

What computer equipment do I need when using Overseer?

Overseer is primarily an online application, so you can use Overseer from any computer with internet access. Requirements for the standalone application are listed on our support page.

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. [link]

Is Overseer free to use?

Overseer is currently free to use, including free software updates. However, when our new product will be available under subscription. This will ensure sustainable, ongoing investment in and development of Overseer. Our founding principles around public good and increasing value for New Zealand will underpin our charging policies.

What changes are coming up?

Overseer Limited is working on a new version of the tool, to be launched in the first half of 2018 and available on a subscription basis. It will connect to the current Overseer engine, but will have new user interface that will make data entry easier and faster, and present information in a way that farmers and their consultants can better understand and engage with. We’re also centralising farm accounts to reduce duplication of effort, smooth transition between version changes, and to support trend analysis. This centralised database will provide improvements in transparency and auditability for regulators and greater data security.

Some functions, including the outdoor pig model and the green house gas emissions modelling, will not be available through the new tool at launch, but we anticipate will be available by the end of 2018. We will provide updates on this as work progresses.