Australian agritech business Discovery Ag and connectivity specialist the National Narrowband Network Company (NNNCo) are forming a new joint venture to develop and roll out an IoT network for Australian farmers.
Today, at conference held in Melbourne by the Australian Farm Institute, it will announce plans to form a new company called Connected Country.
This will work to build and maintain this nationwide IoT network, and also bring other high-tech agriculture solutions to farmers across Australia.
Farming data solution
When launched, this long-range wide area network (LoRaWAN) will provide the crucial infrastructure for connecting sensors that report on farm metrics such as soil moisture, rainfall, crop health, water levels and livestock data.
The two companies are planning to roll out the network immediately across 1 million acres in New South Wales, covering dry land crops, horticulture and livestock and a number of rural towns.
Over the next 18 months, the joint venture partners will look at extending the network across other areas of the nation’s farming regions.
According to the partners, the key success factor of Connected Country will be its ability to provide farmers with the tools needed to collect and analyse large datasets in a bid to make more informed decisions.
Many people see agriculture as being one of the key industries where connected technology can contribute to the future growth and competitiveness of the Australian economy.
Alicia Garde, CEO of Discovery Ag, said: “While hi-tech farming techniques are in use today, significant areas of Australia’s farming footprint lack adequate network coverage.
“For those that do have coverage, existing connectivity networks can make it too expensive for farmers to network their sensors and create a truly connected smart farm.”
Rob Zagarella, founder and CEO of NNNCo, explained that this network will give farmers the tools they need to solve challenges around connectivity and sustainability.
“The Rural IoT Network is an extension of the NNN that we’re building nationwide and will help to solve connectivity and affordability problems for farmers,” he said.
“Together with Discovery Ag, we will be providing low-cost, end-to end standards-based solutions, comprising on-farm networks, network-ready sensors and access to simple on-farm tools that farmers can use to monitor information and take timely action.”
“The joint venture is the first of its kind in Australia’s emerging IoT market. Connected Country is dedicated to providing carrier-grade networks to enable smarter, cheaper and more ubiquitous sensors by leveraging local innovation in conjunction with a global ecosystem of providers.”
Although Connected Country is still in the early stages, it’s already begun working with key partners such as Cisco and the NSW Department of Primary Industries to get the network rolled out to farmers.
”Cisco has been collaborating with the NSW Department of Primary Industries to solve the digital drought in rural Australia. We see the Rural IoT Network as essential to this development,” said Cisco Australia and New Zealand vice president Ken Boal.
While there were other technologies the companies could have chosen to implement, they opted for LoRaWan because it’s well suited to agricultural requirements and is proven to be low cost. It also bodes well for low power consumption.
Zagarella added: “LoRaWAN’s capabilities are extremely well-suited to agricultural requirements. The technology is already used in farms across in Europe and the USA and has proven to be low-cost and effective.
“LoRaWAN-enabled sensors are available at a relatively low cost and a LoRaWAN on-farm gateway can cover large areas and connect to thousands of sensors at an affordable cost.”