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Smart Farming: The future of agriculture and NBN

Tech and Innovation

Posted on September 14, 2015

4 min read

Digital technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and Big Data are set to revolutionise the farming industry.  Access to fast, reliable broadband is a key enabler, making accurate information more readily accessible and critical business decisions simpler and more objective.

The NBN will help farmers realise the productivity and efficiency benefits that come from remote monitoring and management of farm operations, ultimately travelling towards the Promised Land of precision farming.

So what does the Promised Land look like?

The words “Precision Farming” mean a lot of things, all you have to do is Google the term and see how many different variations you get.  Essentially it all boils down to putting energy, effort and resources where and when they are needed.


A simple example is water; most farmers will jump in their 4×4 on regular basis to visually inspect water bores, tanks and troughs. This vital task, could take up to a couple of hours, a day, a week or even a month. IoT and sensor technologies coupled with management applications means that this is no longer necessary. Sensors on bores, tanks and troughs allow data to be sent to applications where you can see what is happening in real time and even set alerts to go 24×7 to your mobile phone. Now you have gained back a couple of hours, a day, a week or even a month, as well as some saving on diesel!


Most farms apply fertilizer on a universal basis but does the entire crop require it? Soil sensors could be sending real time soil information that can be combined with weather data and genetic data to provide agronomists real time, granular details to more accurately make decisions on fertilizer requirements. Starting to get the picture?

Now imagine a time where you could essentially make the bulk of your decisions virtually

Farmers have been collecting information manually for generations by travelling across their properties and making observations, collecting raw data over periods of time. Placing sensors at these important and often critical observation points, changes the game providing information in real time.

Big Data is able to analyse vast amounts of data from different sources, detecting trends and providing insights, allowing for early intervention for adverse events and more precision based business decisions. The real value is being able to synthesise these observations and data sets to consumable insights.

If we apply this to livestock, real time wellbeing information and location data means that you have eyes on your animals at all times.  Infra red sensors can collect data and aggregate it, providing you real time reporting and predicted trends such as weight information and pregnancy scanning.

While all of these things are great there is one key factor that will impact usefulness of all this data. That is, being able to consume it in a way that is simple to understand and track; intuitive applications and interfaces are key.

An example of this is for sheep farming.

Understanding Australian Breeding Values and Genetics is not so simple and how to apply them is even more complicated. This simple application takes all the hard work out of selecting a Ram that has the genetic traits that best suits your flock. It’s as easy to use as a navigating slidey bar (yes, that’s the technical term!) and definitely doesn’t require a genetics degree.

Further reading

The CSIRO paper titled Smart Farming: leveraging the impact of broadband and the digital economy, argues how the sector stands to gain handsomely from technologies such as cloud computing to share information, special farming apps and sensors that track pasture vegetation, soil moisture, livestock movements and farm equipment.

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