IoT brings water management to Australian farmers
July 29, 2020

IoT brings water management to Australian farmers

Food and Farming Technology By CHRISTINE HORTON 

Satellite-controlled pumps and machinery bring next-level monitoring of water supplies to rural farms across Australia

Australian farmers will be able to manage water storage and supplies in near real-time thanks to a new service being rolled out that combines mobile satellite technology and the Internet of Things (IoT). The service will be provided by satellite provider Inmarsat, an IoT vendor to the agricultural industry Farmbot Monitoring Solutions (Farmbot), and Pivotel, an Australian supplier of mobile satellite services.

The agreement follows Australia’s driest year on record in 2019. It will enable farmers anywhere in Australia to remotely monitor water tanks, dams, and reservoirs and activate pumps and other machinery in near real-time. This, it says, will result in a more sustainable and productive future for the sector.

Although Australian farmers are some of the most innovative in the world, adoption of technology on farms has been hamstrung by cellular network connectivity issues,” said Andrew Coppin, managing director of Farmbot.

Affordable satellite-controlled pumps and machinery are a first for the Australian agriculture industry. This partnership has the potential to significantly improve the management of critical water resources for rural farmers worldwide, resulting in tangible productivity gains. The development of on-demand operation of pumps, cameras, and machinery for farmers has significant and far-reaching benefits spanning individual farm profitability, carbon reduction, and ultimately more sustainable outcomes.”

Australia has more than 430,000 rural water tanks storing water critical to agriculture and over 1,000,000 dams, reservoirs, and other bodies of water – very few of which are monitored in real-time. Most water storage facilities have pumps moving water to troughs and other locations for irrigation, but without real-time visibility and analytics, the management of water is time-consuming and inefficient. The cost of managing water is also growing, with many farmers having to travel hundreds of kilometers a day to manually monitor their portfolio of water storage facilities.

Farmbot says that farmers’ ability to monitor their water storage facilities in near real-time and operate pumps when needed will lead to cost savings, a reduction in unnecessary travel, and a more sustainable approach to water management.

The Farmbot platform will also be able to activate machinery, cameras, gates, and a variety of equipment remotely. This, it says, will provide “savings of millions of dollars to the industry, while also reducing the carbon footprint and improving safety.”

There is an increasing global awareness over the need to better manage our water supplies to achieve more sustainable outcomes,” said Steven Tompkins, director of sector development at Inmarsat.

Farmbot has developed a simple, user-friendly remote water monitoring solution that provides near real-time visibility of agricultural water supplies to farming operations across Australia. In addition to the ability to remotely monitor water levels, trends, and alerts, the solution will also give farmers the functionality to remotely operate pumps and other machinery, enhancing an operation’s productivity and sustainability.”

Tompkins also notes that a barrier to unlocking the power of this technology is connectivity, as many of Australia’s remote communities only have access to terrestrial networks. However, he points to Inmarsat’s connectivity services such as its IsatData Pro (IDP) service, a two-way messaging service designed for tough conditions.

This, he says, makes it particularly suitable for supporting Farmbot’s applications that need remote control capability or where updates must be installed remotely.

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