Agriculture has always been a pioneer. Decisions are made based off data. Temperatures, rainfall, time of year, yields, weather, frost, water. Data has been king in farming for centuries. So why now – when terms like ‘big data’, ‘artificial intelligence’, and ‘internet of things (IoT)’ are so prevalent – is farming being left behind?
The explanation can be summed up in one word. Distance. The problem facing rural communities in the current day is the divide between the connectivity options and information that’s available to remote locations, versus their city cousins. So how can we work to reduce this digital divide? The simple answer is connectivity, but the practicality is much more complex.
Telstra Business Technology Centre Perth South (TBTC Perth South) has for years been helping mining and exploration companies in Western Australia find ways to overcome the rugged, difficult terrain and topography so they can stay connected and productive. During this time we’ve found ways to reduce the cost of internet connectivity, and its reliance on grid power.
The challenge we’ve embraced is how to take the learnings and budgets from the large-scale organisations we work with, and translate these to affordable and reliable solutions for farmers and sole traders. Here’s what we’ve learned.
1. Connectivity is King
Your network is critical in providing real-time access to CCTV, gate control, irrigation, diesel floats or even Wi-Fi. Without a high-quality connection, every application you wish to run downstream is impacted. We connect remote sites with the most commercially appropriate, locally available connection. Some of the ways we do this include:
Rebroadcasting Telstra’s mobile network.
If you are within 70kms of a Telstra mobile tower (line of sight permitting) we can get you access to this signal even if you are well outside of its terrestrial footprint. The technology is called cellular rebroadcast, and we are specialists in this field. We can provide in-building coverage, outdoor coverage and even mobile trailers for portable access (Telstra approval required in most cases).
Both Telstra and the nbnTM provide high-quality satellite services based on your location and service requirements.
Low power, wide coverage networks for powering IoT devices
Low power, wide area networks (LoRaWAN) is designed specifically for sensors and IoT devices. This allows farmers to throw long-distance networks with low cost and maximum impact.
Microwave signal extension
Think of this as fibre broadband through the air. Microwave provides high availability and bandwidth in the form of radio connectivity. Places where the tyranny of distance and also the issue of rock and geology is most difficult is where this technology thrives. Though prohibitive in years gone by due to cost, this is now becoming an affordable technology for farmers.
2. Cloud is not just for rain
Once we achieve connectivity the most powerful tool that becomes available to a business is cloud computing. For farmers this could play out as a dashboard with visibility in real-time of their sensors, valves, pumps, tanks, thermostats or whatever is most appropriate to their own requirements.
3. Automation is the new normal
Farmers are all too familiar with waking up at awful hours to turn on irrigation or drive to remote parts of their properties when the weather is either too hot or cold. Imagine if this was automated and both frost or heat could be easily dealt with. Our solutions include connectivity, sensors, computing and automation which all lead to no required interaction or human intervention.
4. Security doesn’t only mean cyber security
Given the end to Jobkeeper and difficult situations across the country as a result of the COVID pandemic, there has been an uptick in crime and theft. Passive surveillance, CCTV, detection of change in diesel or fuel tanks helps mitigate loss due to theft – as well as things like surveillance of sheds storing equipment and plant. We can also provide critical voice communications and radio over IP (RoIP with VHF/UHF) for comms in an emergency.
5. Use the sun
We live in a sunburnt land. Our most important innovation in the use of our technology is the ability for all of this to be operated off the grid. All systems can be run by solar power, supported by lithium batteries and run totally free of external power and cabling. These solutions are perfect for agriculture as they can be positioned wherever required with minimal cost or fuss.
If any of the above topics resonated with you, head to tbtcperthsouth.com.au for more information about our services, or contact Telstra Business Technology Centre Perth South on 1300 4BUSINESS. We are family owned and operated and have been a part of the WA Business community for the last 15 years. Call us for a coffee or a chat today.