A new network spread across 32,000 square kilometres is now helping Victorian farmers make better use of digital technologies on their farms.
The Low Power Wide Area Network, commonly referred to as LoRaWAN®, was funded as part of the Victorian Government’s On-Farm Internet of Things (IoT) Trial and was rolled out by NNNCo, National Narrowband Network Communications.
NNNCo CEO and Co-Founder, Rob Zagarella, welcomed the government’s investment in the new network and foresight to ensure farmers in the trial had access to reliable connectivity to get the most out of the Government’s investment.
“IoT has a major role to play in Australian agriculture, particularly as the sector works towards its goals of becoming a $100 billion industry and carbon neutral by 2030,” Mr Zagarella said.
“LoRaWAN is ideal for the agriculture sector because it was developed for industries that needed a cost-effective, long-range signal with a battery life of many years for IoT sensors, and the ability to meet 100% of all coverage needs to every sensor and device deployed in the field”, he added.
“NNNCo was able to set up the network quickly, providing kilometres of service in any direction and bringing connectivity to areas that other technologies could not reach“. In the trial, some farmers use environmental sensors like soil moisture probes to analyse real-time weather data and determine the best time and quantity of water for irrigation. Others use sensors to monitor throughs, tanks, silos or gates opening. This ensures the most effective use of water, electricity, and time, reduces costs and improves sustainability.
Mr Zagarella said the On-Farm IoT Trial was a big undertaking but critical to increasing the uptake of AgTech in the sector and NNNCo was thrilled to deliver the network.
“We’ve worked with local contractors and farmers to install IoT network connectivity on farms around Birchip, Serpentine, Tatura and Maffra,” he said.
“We’ve installed around 150 gateways on farms and provided our data exchange platform product called N2N-DL to ensure data generated from the trial can be turned into meaningful information for farmers to make more informed decisions. The N2N-DL IoT Platform harmonises access to a vast range of sensors and devices, with integration to 18 AgTech Solutions Providers. NNNCo is working closely with the entire agricultural ecosystem to ensure that solutions can be deployed on any farm wherever there is an NNNCo LoRaWAN network”.
“The establishment of a ubiquitous telco-grade network and delivery of data from apps and devices to the Agriculture Victoria data lake will accelerate the adoption of AgTech, improve on-farm connectivity and deliver agricultural productivity and sustainability gains. The provision of grants for farmers in trial regions incentivised Ag Tech uptake and de-risked the investment”.
“Not only is this supporting local employment but it also means new skills such as deploying, repairing, installing, maintaining and using the network are learnt along the way. We’re looking forward to seeing how other businesses and communities in these regions can now go on to use the available LoRaWAN network and make the most of the opportunities that access to the digital economy brings.”
Agriculture Victoria’s Acting Executive Director of Agriculture Policy, Dr Julie Simons, said the lack of reliable on-farm connectivity, capital costs and uncertainty around navigating technology choices posed barriers preventing some farmers from adopting emerging digital technologies on-farm.
“The LoRaWAN network being delivered through the trial is helping to overcome these challenges by supporting farmers to test the benefits of IoT technology such as soil moisture probes, weather monitoring, humidity and temperature monitoring, water tank level monitoring, and asset tracking on their farms,” Dr Simons said.
“The IoT trial is not only an opportunity for horticulture, dairy, sheep and cropping farmers to establish the technology best suited to their circumstances, it will also allow us to share lessons from the trial with other farmers to help them better understand how investments in IoT technologies can assist their decision making and improve their operations”, Dr Simons added.