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Rural Data Usage Continues To Soar As New Tech' Drives Efficient Farms And Sustainable Communities

Rural broadband specialists, Farmside, have reported a massive 34% average year-on-year data usage increase in Aotearoa’s rural communities since 2017 as new technologies drive efficiency, productivity and sustainability in the sector. The internet provider, powered by Vodafone New Zealand, is a Gold Partner of the first Fieldays Online launched last week, showcasing three of the latest innovations driving smarter, and more connected, farms.

The Farmside and Vodafone site set up for Fieldays Online features: water quality monitoring system RiverWatch that analyses real-time data on the health of New Zealand’s waterways; smart traps run on Vodafone’s narrowband IoT (nb-IoT) network keep the bird sanctuary at Punakaiki predator-free; and a Wide Area Network (WAN) that securely connects all Pāmu New Zealand’s farms with its corporate offices.

Farmside CEO Jason Sharp says it is innovations such as these that has seen the demand for rural connectivity grow relentlessly over the last few years.

“Farming methods have come a long way in the last decade – now technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and the Internet of Things help optimise resources, automate manual labour, and protect the environment. Connectivity is becoming ever more essential as digitisation changes the way rural businesses operate.” he says.

Vodafone NZ’s Head of Internet of Things (IoT) Michelle Sharp says she is particularly excited that Vodafone and Farmside are helping connect technologies that create a healthier, more sustainable, New Zealand.

“Connecting key sensors and other devices through a dedicated IoT network allows for real-time data collection and analysis, meaning the user can take immediate action based on the data or automate other systems to be triggered to respond to issues or events as they happen,” she says.

“Environmental systems, livestock management and smart logistics providing quick and easy access to key data can be incredibly transformational for farms and communities.”

Data usage spikes throughout COVID-19 lockdown

The need for online capability was particularly noticeable during COVID-19 lockdown, when Farmside saw the country’s rural broadband (RBI) saw data usage increase by 74% and satellite data usage increased by 35%. Post-lockdown, data consumption continues to be high in rural areas with 16.7% more data used in June 2020 than in the average six months pre-lockdown.

Jason Sharp says lockdown led to a greater need for online capability and for people to be connected.

“Of course, throughout lockdown farming didn’t stop,” he says. “The need for technology actually increased as farmers grappled with both running their businesses and keeping their employees safe. On top of that, many farmers had families at home with the same connectivity requirements for home schooling and entertainment that the majority of New Zealand had.

“We’ve seen stock auctions go online, our major agriculture exhibition become the Fieldays Online event and online discussion groups replace face to face gatherings. Combine this with a trend towards on-farm monitoring and cloud-based applications, and data consumption will continue to rise.”

Michelle Sharp adds: “Now, more than ever, there will be significant focus on the primary industries, as our nation looks to the sector to help us get through the impending global crisis. We have a chance to reinvent how agriculture and horticulture is undertaken and to build the future of farming through next generation technology and strong networks.”

To visit the Farmside powered by Vodafone Fieldays Online site see https://www.fieldaysonline.co.nz/exhibitor-list/farmside-powered-by-vodafone or visit https://www.vodafone.co.nz/fieldays/#ruraliot/ for more information.

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