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IoT solution is boost for Australian farmers

23 July 2020

A new alliance between Inmarsat, Farmbot Monitoring Solutions and mobile satellite services provider Pivotel is set to offer Australian farmers enhanced visibility, efficiency and sustainability of their water supplies.

The agreement will ensure that farmers anywhere on the continent are able to use the next generation of Farmbot’s solutions to remotely monitor water tanks, dams and reservoirs and activate pumps and other machinery in real time, as and when required, resulting in a more sustainable and productive future for the sector. Pivotel has been working with Farmbot since 2015 and will continue to provide support.

2019 was the driest year on record in much of Australia and the management of water is an increasingly important issue. Australia has over 430,000 rural water tanks storing water critical to agriculture and over one million 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 miles a day to manually monitor water storage facilities. 

Sustainable approach

The alliance will provide greater functionality to Farmbot’s customers, leading to cost savings, a reduction in unnecessary travel and a more sustainable approach to water management. The Farmbot platform will also gain the ability to activate machinery, cameras, gates and a wide variety of equipment remotely, offering savings of millions of dollars to the industry, while also reducing its carbon footprint and improving safety. 

For reliable satellite connectivity the solution will use Inmarsat’s IsatData Pro (IDP) service, a two-way messaging service provided in a compact, robust housing which is ideal for the tough conditions found in remote areas in Australia. Inmarsat’s global connectivity services are underpinned by the world’s most reliable satellite communications network. 

The agreement between the companies also recognises the potential for Farmbot to leverage Inmarsat’s satellite connectivity and expertise to help provide remote and precision agricultural monitoring for the global agricultural industry. 

Global awareness

Steven Tompkins, Director of Sector Development at Inmarsat, said: “There is an increasing global awareness of the need to better manage our water supplies to achieve more sustainable outcomes. Already operating in 2,800 locations across Australia, and growing at around 200 per month, Farmbot is leading the way in deploying innovative technologies to help solve these issues for a more sustainable and productive future for the agriculture sector. With our 40 years of heritage and expertise in providing critical connectivity services across different industries, we are excited to bring this experience and help Farmbot develop real-time, IoT-based water monitoring solutions for Australian farmers.

“Farmbot has developed a simple, user-friendly remote water monitoring solution that provides 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. A key barrier to unlocking the power of this technology is connectivity, as many of Australia’s remote communities only have access to terrestrial networks. Inmarsat’s globally available connectivity services, such as our IsatData Pro (IDP) service, offer two-way messaging making it particularly suitable for supporting Farmbot’s applications that need remote control capability or where updates must be installed remotely.” 

Andrew Coppin, Managing Director of Farmbot said: “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. We are really excited about the opportunities that Inmarsat’s real-time, two-way communications will bring to rural Australia and other regions. Affordable satellite-controlled pumps and machinery is 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.”