Research

Smart farms – easier, cheaper, faster

Dr Warwick Gillespie (Research Engineer, Sense-T), Dr Marcus Hardie (Research Fellow, TIA) and Simon Edwards (Senior Research Engineer, Sense-T)
Dr Warwick Gillespie (Research Engineer, Sense-T), Dr Marcus Hardie (Research Fellow, TIA) and Simon Edwards (Senior Research Engineer, Sense-T)

Thousands of data sensors are giving Tasmania’s research and teaching farms an agritech facelift.

The Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA) and Sense-T have installed a Long Range (LoRa) data communication gateway on the University of Tasmania’s research farm at Cambridge.

The resulting network, called LoRaWAN, can include up to 1000 sensors and is being used to transform traditional farms into ‘smart farms’.

“LoRaWAN is changing the way data is sensed and communicated on farms,” TIA Research Fellow Dr Marcus Hardie said.

“TIA researchers will be able to collect information remotely that we’ve never collected before – such as moisture, heat, wind speed, gasses in the air and animal and insect locations via GPS.

“We know that access to instantaneous data can make farming way more efficient and we’re keen to know how this tech could benefit farmers in Tassie.

“In the future we could see farmers adjusting their irrigation schedules as soon as the weather shifts or optimising grazing to line up with animal movements around the paddock.

“It also gives TIA’s 100+ students access to cutting-edge agritech,” he said.

The LoRaWAN gateway was designed and manufactured in Tasmania by Definium Technologies, and the mobile power supply, frame, and housing were engineered at the University of Tasmania by Sense-T.

“Because it’s so reliable, efficient and cheap, LoRaWAN is expected to replace wi-fi in semi-remote areas,” Sense-T Director Associate Professor Stephen Cahoon said.

“LoRaWAN uses very little electricity and can communicate over a distance of five–10 kilometres, compared to about 50 metres with wi-fi, which makes it perfect for agriculture.

“Users will get data immediately on their smartphones, and it will work even if wi-fi is down,” he said.

The project is one of the first roll-outs of the LoRaWAN technology on farms in Australia.

Over the next three months, LoRaWAN gateways are being rolled out in each of TIA’s research farms at Forthside, Elliot and Cambridge.

Source: UTAS

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