• Gracey Griffin

Making IoT Work in Rural Australia

Agtech is becoming very popular, providing time and cost savings for farmers and creating more efficient production. However, for many Australian (and New Zealand) farmers, one of the biggest struggles is securing connectivity for internet connected devices.

From home security systems to fitness tracking watches, IoT devices are changing the way we live, work and interact on a daily basis. The primary sector is seeing an unprecedented era of innovation that heavily involves internet connected sensors, devices and machinery. Careful asset tracking, communication and coordination is leading to more informed decisions and increased productivity.

Precision agriculture reduces wasted time and resources, incorporating agriculture and science to maximise yield. Thousands of devices are already available from animal trackers to the 'sheepdog drone' meaning entire stations can be monitored from your computer. Data is aggregated to provide insight to which areas of the farm are working efficiently and where improvements can be made.

Large Australian farms are signing up to be Smart Farming testing sights but are being let down by connectivity problems. Fast and reliable reception throughout all areas of the farm is crucial for the integration of the Internet of Things in rural Australia. With stations often as large as European countries, ensuring a strong connection seems almost impossible. Where Australia struggles is the population density on massive agricultural stations. Individual farms can exceed 20,000 square km so building network towers to cover such great distances requires strong investment.

Carwoola Pastoral test farm is "unrivalled in terms of it's scale yet has attracted little if any attention". The group of properties under Carwoola Pastoral are testing basically every IoT and connectivity solution they can get their hands on, testing them against one another to determine what will - and won’t - work in an Australian rural environment.

So far, the properties have deployed more than 200 devices and approached over 150 different companies about their products, but found very few are ready for use. Carwoola are testing Waterwatch sensors on their tanks, troughs, ponds and streams to better understand water usage throughout the station. “Instead of a 250km drive three times a week to check our waters, I should simply get an alert on my phone when anything drops below normal" says station owner Calum Carruth. He believed the water monitoring system would save $25,000 in the first year alone, and “that’s without factoring in my workers can do something else instead of trough runs.”

Throughout the test farms, Carwoola Station has "monitors for troughs and tanks and dams, weather stations and rain gauges, diesel tank monitors, soil probes, sheep and cattle tags - some smarter than others, gate and cattle ramp monitors, we have some digital mapping, electric fence monitors, smoke alarms and shed condition monitors, vehicle and asset tracking, farm management software, apiary devices, drone technology, cattle heat detection, silo level monitors and animal handling systems.” All of these technologies rely heavily on internet connectivity and use a lot of data. Investment in agtech solutions can seem expensive and daunting but with more test farms and better accessibility, the investment looks as if it will pay itself off quickly.

Waterwatch products are designed to minimise the problems that the early adaptors are facing. We have the widest coverage options currently available working off various low-power, long range networks. The sensors transmit small bundles of information periodically to minimise data usage. All our sensors are "out of the box" solutions meaning they can be easily installed and usually don't require extra infrastructure. The devices themselves require minimal maintenance and have an up to 10 year battery life. Notifications can be set to alert you on any unusual readings from whatever liquid you are monitoring. They are a cost-effective, scalable solution and can be integrated with leading software and farm management dashboards or used on their own.

If you have any questions about Waterwatch products and IoT sensing, or want to check if your property will have coverage, please contact us at info@waterwatch.io or visit our website www.waterwatch.io.

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