Until recently, many rural businesses across Australia have had little or no access to reliable connectivity. There are now a wide variety of solutions available to allow you to connect your on-farm technology (such as soil sensors) with your farm management software, and then collect and analyse your data online.
It is important to note that on-farm connectivity and broadband/internet connectivity require separate solutions, and that you will usually need a combination of both.
There is an extensive (and growing) list of ways these two types of connectivity can impact your business. For example, the appropriate connectivity set-up could allow you to:
Remotely monitor performance, growth curves, inventory levels, soil moisture, temperature, irrigation systems and more, across multiple sites
Improve the performance of precision agriculture technologies
Assure worker health and safety
Gather local, accurate weather data when and where you need it
The difference between on-farm connectivity solutions and broadband/internet connectivity, as well as suggested considerations when deciding what is right for your business, can be found below.
When talking about connectivity for smart farming, there are two types you will usually need to consider:
On-farm connectivity to collect and carry data across your farm.
Broadband connectivity to ‘make sense’ of the data.
For many AgTech solutions, both forms of connectivity will be required.
1. On-farm connectivity solutions
When it comes to connectivity solutions for rural businesses, there is no 'one size fits all'. The most appropriate solution for your business will depend on your circumstances.
For example, for activities like crop surveillance, driving autonomous farm vehicles, or using your iPad in the middle of an orchard, you may require on-farm WiFi or Bluetooth. But if all you need is to transfer small amounts of data (such as sensor data), Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWANs) could be a better option.
LPWANs connect battery-powered devices like soil moisture sensors, Internet of Things (IoT) enabled pest traps, and remote weather stations, and can provide connectivity over large distances.
Another option is satellite connectivity, which can connect on-farm devices directly to satellites. This solution is particularly useful in remote locations as it does not require any ground-based infrastructure.
When deciding which of these solutions is best for you, it is important to consider the:
Location of your property
Topography of your land and line of sight barriers (like shelter belts and sheds)
Number and type of devices you want to connect
How much data you want to transmit
The frequency at which you need to receive data
2. Broadband connectivity
Collecting data is one thing, but the real value lies in being able to process and analyse that information. Reliable broadband internet has the potential to transform the way you make decisions at every level of your business. Broadband connectivity will allow you to:
Upload your data to cloud-based software or models and download useful insights and analysis
Use online banking and accounting services
Integrate smart farm technologies and apps across your farm
Remotely monitor and manage on-farm systems
And much, much more.
New and emerging broadband solutions can provide fast, reliable broadband internet to farmers in areas where access to other options such as fixed cable or NBN SkyMuster are not viable or are inadequate for your needs.