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Smart farm technology proves popular with farmers

21 June 2016

Smart farm technology proves popular with farmers at Fieldays 2016

Vodafone NZ is providing a launching pad for rural entrepreneurs to grow their ‘smart farm’ innovations as seen at this year’s Fieldays.

Innovation was the centerpiece of this year’s Fieldays, with farmers from across the country descending on Mystery Creek to see how technology is making farming smarter, easier and more cost effective.

More than 130,000 people walked through the gates at Mystery Creek near Hamilton for the 48th annual agribusiness event, with many heading straight for the Premium Pavilion where three of Vodafone NZ’s Smart Farm Innovation Partners were based.

Visitors to the Vodafone stand had access to free Vodafone Rural Connect Wi-Fi and were able to gauge mobile and broadband coverage on their properties using Smart Farm Test stations.

Over the course of the four day event, Vodafone reported a 50 percent increase in total data traffic compared to last year and more than 1TB of total data downloaded, with many making the most of the free official Fieldays smartphone app to navigate their way around the 113 hectare site.

As a Principal Partner of Fieldays, and once again the Innovation and Technology Partner, Vodafone teamed up with three home-grown agribusinesses Haptly, Blerter and Tru-Test to exhibit a range of intelligent farming solutions designed around streamlining pasture and milk monitoring, farm management, health and safety compliance and accident prevention.

“Rural wireless broadband connectivity is now extending to approximately 78 percent of the rural population, giving farmers a greater ability to employ state-of- the-art technology, like what’s on offer from Vodafone’s Smart Farm Innovation Partners, to cut down costs and to simplify labour-intensive work,” said Vodafone’s Consumer Director, Matt Williams.

“Driving efficiencies and reducing costs is top of mind for many of the farmers we’ve seen this year at Fieldays, particularly given challenges in the dairy sector. The technology shared by our Smart Farm Innovation Partners attracted plenty of interest. These smart farm innovations can help improve decision-making and be a really practical way to do things better to achieve savings, while also boosting productivity,” Mr Williams said.

Smart Farm Innovation Partner, Haptly is primed to reap the benefits of increased rural connectivity with its prototype technology that delivers effortless measurement of dry matter, real-time farm data and analysis from the air to farmers wanting to keep a closer eye on their pastures with automated drones.

Haptly co-founder Rab Heath said, “The general response from farmers here at Fieldays is that they’ve been waiting for something like this, and it’s great that we’re able to deliver it for them via the extended rural network Vodafone is providing.”

Mr Heath and his colleague, co-founder Nelson Shaw, spent Fieldays speaking with visitors at the Vodafone site in the Premium Pavilion where they had the drone and accompanying software available for demonstrations.

“We’re encouraged by the level of interest, especially from farming consultants wanting to offer it to their clients as a way to better manage farm inputs and optimise farm performance. The conversations we’ve had throughout Fieldays will help us to refine the technology further and tailor it to farmers’ specific needs,” Mr Heath said.

Fellow Smart Farm Innovation Partner, Blerter was also on site at the Vodafone stand to showcase its real-time health and safety app.

Available on smartphones, tablets, PCs and wearable devices, Blerter enables farmers to instantly report incidents, observations and near misses, and use instant messaging to communicate to their workforce. Individual staff and visitor profiles also hold credential and verification information, helping farmers to stay on top of compliance, a priority for many in light of recent changes to health and safety legislation.

“Being on the ground here at Fieldays has given us a greater understanding of where farmers are at with their health and safety. When you talk about compliance there is a real sense of frustration, but when you talk to them about keeping their people and their families safe then you get their attention,” Blerter founder and CEO Richard Gill said.

“A lot of farmers we’ve spoken to have said that they’d love to use Bleter, they just need to be connected. Being on site with Vodafone we’ve been able to refer them to the rural connectivity solutions that are enabling farmers to use technology like ours to keep safe on their properties,” Mr Gill said.

Vodafone rural specialists were on hand to offer advice and solutions to customers such as Residential and Enterprise Sure Signal 3G mobile, and a range of femtocell, small cell and mini and macro repeaters for internet connectivity that proved popular with rural residents not within reach of the Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI), but still looking to extend coverage to their farms.

The RBI, a collaboration between Vodafone, Chorus and the Government, is providing the wider connectivity platform for smarter farming, bringing wireless broadband to 290,000 rural households.

“Rural people want access to the same internet and data speeds as there are elsewhere and Vodafone is committed to ensuring no one misses out on being able to run their households and businesses with the latest technology,” Mr Williams said.

Between 2013 and 2015, rural data usage increased by 270 percent, with further increases expected upon completion of the RBI upgrade programme at the end of the year.


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