CRN Impact Awards: Best Technology Services deploys IoT tech to create "smart" farms across Victoria

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CRN Impact Awards: Best Technology Services deploys IoT tech to create "smart" farms across Victoria

Sydney’s Best Technology Services has been named a finalist in the 2021 CRN Impact Awards under the network evolution category for its work with Agriculture Victoria.

Agriculture Victoria is a state department agency that works with farmers, industries, communities and other government agencies to grow and secure agriculture in Victoria. It is under the remit of Victorian minister for agriculture Mary-Anne Thomas.

The department established a $12 million on-farm internet of things (IoT) project in 2020 to support the trial and implementation of digital technologies on farms based in Victoria. Agriculture Victoria sought a provider through a competitive tender, with Best Technology Services and IoT specialist NNNCo selected as winners.

The two companies were tasked to roll out Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWAN), specifically LoRaWAN, with NNNCo managing project design and consultation with councils and farmers, while Best deployed teams of engineers.

“Victoria’s on-farm IoT trial is an ambitious Victorian Government program supporting farmers to adopt on-farm digital technologies, helping to place Victoria’s agriculture sector at the forefront of the digital agriculture revolution in Australia,” Agriculture Victoria director of agriculture industry development David McIver said.

“The trial is breaking down key barriers to the adoption of digital agriculture, including lack of access to reliable connectivity on-farm.”

The two-year pilot so far has provided some 325 farmers access to IoT technologies, including dairy farms in Maffra, horticulture in Tatura, grain in Birchip and sheep in Serpentine.

LoRaWAN connectivity, allows devices to collect and send real-time farm data such as soil moisture, chemical application, tank or vat levels and livestock health. Other devices can also monitor farm fences, vehicles and the weather.

NNNCo’s data aggregation platform N2N-DL was also deployed to provide Agriculture Victoria with the captured data for analysis, which can also be shared to third parties like researchers to support research and innovation.

The collected information from the network would help farmers make better decisions with less resources and improve productivity, profitability and sustainability.

Best said the project is the first LoRaWAN network deployment of this scale in Australia in an agriculture environment, which was made more complex from the regional agriculture environment in the state. Farms are spread across 5000 square kilometres in regional communities and existing council-owned infrastructure was limited.

Best’s engineers had to scope ideal locations for gateways, which involved working in an unpredictable natural environment and working with farmers who may need to leave abruptly to tend to their farms at any given moment. The COVID-19 pandemic also created scheduling and resourcing complexities like restrictions on travel and other movements and interactions, but the company had several engineers based in those regions to keep work going.

“NNNCo worked closely with Agriculture Victoria to support the trial’s success through the delivery of LoRaWAN connectivity to support apps and devices installed on-farm under the trial. Through this process, NNNCo and Best engaged extensively with stakeholders including local government, farmers and technology suppliers to ensure the successful establishment and operation of the network,” McIver said.

“This has included intensive engagement and provision of technical support to IoT solutions providers taking part in the trial, to ensure their devices were network-ready and achieve a positive farmer experience.

The establishment of network connectivity and delivery of data from apps and devices to a data lake have contributed to key deliverables and objectives of the trial, which has provided more than 300 farmers with grants to support new investments in digital technologies, and improved connectivity on-farm.

“NNNCo and Best delivered the network on time despite the challenges of COVID-19
restrictions, and have provided a flexible and responsive service to meet the needs of the trial and its participants.”

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