Tractors and trucks will become roving Wi-Fi devices with a range of up to 5 kilometres, as part of a new Food Agility CRC research collaboration to provide farm-wide internet coverage.
The Farm-wide Wi-Fi Project involves Australian agtech company, Zetifi, working alongside researchers at University of Technology Sydney and Charles Sturt University.
The team is building antenna arrays that can be fitted to mobile and stationary farming equipment to provide long-range communication. They aim to deliver a market solution within 18months.
This is the first project to be announced as part of the Global Digital Farm, Australia’s first ‘hands-free farm’ at Wagga Wagga, where the technology will be trialled and tested.
Food Agility Chief Scientist, Professor David Lamb, said the new technology would be enabling infrastructure for Australian agriculture.
“Improving connectivity for Australian farmers is the single most critical factor in driving productivity and sustainability in agriculture,” Professor Lamb said.
“Farmers increasingly rely on high-level data analytics, automation and networks of devices that talk to each other over vast distances. This new technology will connect people and devices far beyond the farm gate and will be the backbone for the future of autonomous farming.”
Zetifi CEO, Dan Winson, said farmers deserved the same connectivity for their businesses as those in urban areas.
“I’ve seen farmers perform the most amazing acts of contortion, hanging out tractor windows and climbing up ladders, trying to get a decent connection,” Mr Winson said.
“This will be an Australian-designed solution, made for Australian conditions to deliver connectivity wherever it’s needed on the farm. It will complement NBN wireless broadband and satellite coverage, helping farmers to transfer critical data across our vast landscapes.”
The technology will be a combination of adapted off-the-shelf and bespoke solutions, including a custom antenna array.
Quotes from research partners:
Co-Director, Radio Frequency and Communication Technologies Laboratory (RFCT) at UTS and Sensing Innovations Lead at Food Agility CRC, Dr Negin Shariati: “At the heart of communication systems providing long-range connectivity is an antenna. RFCT researchers will design and fabricate new types of antennas integrated with a custom radiofrequency module to enable long-range communication in smart farms.”
Senior Research Fellow at CSU’s Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation, Jonathan Medway: “The Global Digital Farm will develop, test and showcase the best in emerging technology for Australian farmers. It’s fitting that the first of many collaborations here will tackle one of agriculture’s greatest barriers to sustainability and productivity growth - connectivity.”