Connectivity – On Farm WiFi Networks

Much has been said about connectivity on farm. Everything from, “there is not enough”, through to “why would you invest in that?”. In amongst the commentary, there are certainly operations that do invest here and for the specific purpose of improving their abilities to manage the land more effectively. Increase automation and increase your effectiveness on certain tasks -why? Well do you use a mobile? then you’ll already understand there are benefits you don’t want to go back from once you have good connectivity and I.T. systems.

It’s a rational goal to control/reduce the ever rising input costs and technology/comms can make a difference here.

Broad Acre , Pasture or Horticulture; Tropical or Temperate – each situation presents their own needs and challenges in what on farm operation can/should be automated, removed or improved…… the right connectivity can then be chosen to suit. But connectivity is only part of the story, although it’s a critical enabler it’s certainly not the driver.

But how does connectivity help?

……Good Question as there is more to it than say just ‘faster internet’. We need to look at key areas of limited time and money that the agricultural business is expending and provide alternatives for it. Alternative practices that indeed rely on appropriate connectivity; but firstly make a meaningful difference to the business on the farm. An example list below:

Key TasksCurrent Practice Alternative Practice – Using the right connectivity!
Water tank/ trough inspection Drive weekly, do the rounds and get eyes on once a week.
– Takes a few hrs depending on distance and count.
– You need to be onsite.
– You will not know what to bring for repairs until you see it.
Remote Camera at inspection point.
– You remotely view at any time you want from your iPhone/tablet, each morning for example.
– Takes minutes and you move the time and cost of driving the “rounds”, to time for fixing only what has broken.
– You don’t need to be onsite anymore to check
– You have a fair chance of knowing what to bring if you spot a fault.
– Simple sensors can give false reads, you can get professional electronic level sensors (strongly recommended) or combination of sensors with programmed logic…..
But there is just a great simplicity to a camera, the saying “a picture tells a thousand words” does often hold true here.
Cattle Yard Gate Control– Drive to location, manually set up yarding gate closed or open
– attendance required regularly to ensure its working
Remote Actuator Gate Control
– in unison with Camera you can setup entries and one-ways remotely enabling them and being able to monitor without being in attendance.
Irrigation Pump monitoring and ControlDrive out to pump house, set switch to ‘on’ or enable the ‘timer’, return to Switch ‘off’ at the right time.
– Pump house has to be entered and safe to work in
– You need to be onsite to operate and disable pump, even if its at 2am
– Overwatering costs electricity and water

– Generally for Irrigation , these are usually off 3 Phase power, feeding pivots etc.
Remote pump control with monitoring.
– integrated control to monitor pressures/ power use and
– setup schedule or timers to start/stop pumps at exactly the time you need.
– You no longer need to drive to a pump house at 2 in the morning to switch it off.
– Reduce overwatering risk that costs electricity and water
– Retain operating logs that is your data we can now analyse – determine what level of solar offset is cost effective for example?
Solar Bore Pump monitoring and Control
– Drive weekly and do the rounds and get eyes on once a week.
– Generally for feeding a header tank then troughs, these are in all manner of locations where water is needed/available for cattle.
Remote pump monitoring.
– You check in the morning alongside any other remote checks, or use notifications to tell you of an issue.
– Here the setup can be a bit more trimmed down as you may not Care so much what pressures or what consumption, but you still want to know if its got water to pump or if its still pumping at all. The use of a camera for this as well as other things at that location is a cost effective way -two birds one stone.
Communications 4G is not always available across the property. Getting online to respond to emails or get hold of people whilst you’re onfarm can mean that you just need to wait until you’re back at the house. – Remote WiFi HotSpots
– Reuse and build on any of your connectivity installed for cameras/pumps/sheds etc. to provide localised WiFi hotspots at
Equipment Maintenance Okay – how often do you walk from the machine shed to the house to print of the exploded parts view…….?– Shed WiFi
– When setting up your comms , adding a WiFi hotspot in the machinery shed (along with a camera or 2) makes allot of sense to get work done – determine faults, determine and order parts, record movements etc….
Connectivity is only useful if you want to achieve business efficiencies. Well designed and built systems will make a meaningful impact. Target the tasks and group up to solve with the right connectivity that is vendor agnostic, that you can use and reuse for multiple tasks and that is also self-maintainable if you can’t get hold of our wonderful/handsome staff that day 😉 In the end, what’s the benefit of 50k of investment if it saves you only 10k…..?.

What’s Right?

A word about appropriate connectivity. Standards and vendors do come and go (3g is shutting down now for example ), but when moving to connected farming you still need to keep resilient and reliable and have connectivity that suits the task/s. There is no point in doing this if it does not save on labour, time, costs and risk. Secondly, the brochures don’t always tell you the whole story – i.e:

  • “LoraWan with uptown 15ks!!” But is it a good idea to use LoraWan for Camera – no, it’s just not sufficient in bandwidth.
  • Is it a good idea to use a” 4G repeater to boost your reception!!” in a bad coverage area?? – no. Bad signal in still means bad signal out, just now its more bad….
  • Is it a good idea to use “Open standards” – Yes! Being vendor locked in has allot of challenges especially if they go bust, have supply issues or sell out.
  • Is it a good idea to use equipment that is reasonably available and easily switched out – Yes! Open standards keep volumes and availability up.
  • What about newish tech like “WiFi Halow (802.11ah)” …. Sounds very promising and we are keen on this one. But it’s not readily available in deployable equipment as yet. There are lots of dev boards coming out now….. even though the standards have been around for 10 years
  • “This WiFi will do 300m”…….sometimes that can be true, sometimes not, I wouldn’t always bank on it…..WiFi shares spectrum and other devices/setup can cause havoc on WiFi…..
  • and more…..

There are a few things to consider, but the important one is – Can you work with people that want to help your business succeed?, There are plenty of box shifters that are happy to sell anything they need to hit their target…… The key is all about ‘where’ YOU want your operation to be – the rest is execution and the ‘what’ we can figure out together to achieve the ‘where’ YOU are going.

But don’t just take my word for it – Have a look at Prenti Downs (WA) and the ABC interview with Jack. They’re doing great things using tech that is available today off the shelf to enhance their operation. Jack has a YouTube channel as well http://www.youtube.com/@jack_out_the_back

What has CQ Wireless got to do with the above?

Well, we like to see our area shift from bad internet to great internet and then be able to use all its advantages across properties and for the benefit of the families that manage the land.

We are not sponsored by Starlink, nbn, internet or hardware providers nor do we receive commissions for the above comments. Our views are ours alone and we love to be informed by facts.

We’ve helped plenty of businesses and homes move to better. And we really enjoy that the right service and equipment is no longer in the “unobtainable” category.

What do CQ Wireless do then???? …… If you need to get your Farm connected, improve remote control, monitoring and automation or just ensure your I.T. systems work for you instead of your working for I.T , just contact us:

Contact​

info@cqwireless.com.au
Gladstone, QLD Australia
07 4894 8400

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