The new year is well underway, and as we continue to pivot around the challenges thrown at the agriculture sector from Corona, and the below expected rainfall from LA Nina shows how important it is to keep abreast of the changes taking place and having the correct mechanisms in place to respond to adversity. Primary production is reliant and connected on integration of several natural resources such as energy, water, and climate. He aim to provide a project spread to help farmers to continually improve, become more efficient, resilient, and to meet the goals set for a sustainable and productive future.
Increasing efficiency is one way to improve your company’s bottom line. It means doing more with less. An Australian Financial Review article recently suggested that Australia could experience a $2.2 trillion productivity boost in all commercial sectors with aims for Agriculture to become a $100 billion dollar industry by 2030, provided businesses adopt smart technology and automation. Smart farming and precision agriculture involve the integration of advanced technologies into existing farming practices to increase production efficiency and the quality of agricultural products. Smart systems on farm involve the use of end node sensors capable of capturing the data on variables such as energy, weather, and water. Couple this with spatial or drone monitoring from above and a comprehensive image of what is occurring on your site can be formed. We hope to be testing this concept deploying a whole of systems approach across two farms. We will be adopting a similar approach as seen with AgVictorias on Farm Internet of Things trial, stay tuned for news and project updates as we begin to kick off.
To capture the data requires connectivity and understanding of the underlying principles. Connectivity through the communications networks is becoming increasingly important as these technologies become mainstream. It often comes with issues often seen in regional areas, the technical language, and the various networks. There are different types of services available such as mobile coverage or satellite connectivity each with inherit positives and negatives when accessing the service. Improvements are being made in regional areas such as the mobile blackspot program and solutions available on sites that exhibit low connectivity when connecting smart systems.
Other networks that are used to connect the end node sensors includes Narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) and LoRaWAN. These are a Low Power Wide Area Network radio technology which allow data to be sent back from the end nodes (e.g., water sensor) to a central Wi-Fi gateway, typically in your house or a control box. In this instance if you have Wi-Fi access a network can be formed onsite. Unlike cellular devices, such as the Wattwatchers in QFFs real time energy monitoring trail, the ‘data packets’ sent to the gateway are small. This allows the end nodes to be operational for years. They do this by entering a so-called deep sleep mode and are woken by a transfer or receipt of a data packet. As such these systems are not recommended for large data capture like video feeds but work well in other applications such as checking if gates are open or water troughs low. The data can be displayed in such a way that it is easier for growers to make decisions on farm and can help display trends over time. The NB-IoT systems are generally a cheaper alternative in comparison to LoRaWAN as you can tap into an existing network such as Telstra’s. You can find out more on NBIOT HERE and click HERE to view Telstra’s coverage map to see if you can tap into this system.
It is important to consider the costs and return on investment if adopting IOT technology. The use of these smart systems means farms will have real potential to reduce resource use, including energy, from the adoption of this technology.
While these smart systems are great it is important to understand that they can come under attack. Hackers can target smart farms as the systems are relatively new and can be underdeveloped. Cyber-attacks can pose a real risk with a potential downturn in production, income loss, or credibility as a company. This could be for economic reasons or complex country and trade relationships. These attacks can occur in various forms. Data stored in the cloud can be accessed or altered from leakage or injection attacks or altered for instance on automated weed spraying equipment, herbicide application rates could be altered, and crops destroyed. It can also be due to a malware attack, frequency jamming, viruses, or phishing. To read more in depth on the topic of the various types of networks and attacks that can be experienced click HERE.
LoRaWAN sensors have inbuilt security to protect the messages sent, though the gateway and data host can be susceptible. A simple roadmap to protect your systems should first include all the devices that need protecting, then by listing the networks that these have access too. You will need to note all the devices that enter your networks, as this could be from additional access permissions, and protect all entry and exit points. This can be done by updating firmware, having strong passwords that are changed regularly and shoring up encryption services. A written plan can help guide you on the process and ensure all bases are covered. Be sure to train all those involved in the use of the infrastructure.
It is important to remember that the data can come from a host of places which may be overlooked as a source of attack. There are arguments forming on who owns the data which may be the technology or software provider, or the farm. To mitigate against this the National Farmers Federation has worked on the farm data Code of Practice, to view click HERE.
Australia has a long history of power supply and over the years the system has grown with us as a nation. Large power stations have been coupled to increasingly complex transmission and distribution networks to help keep up with demand from the end user. With energy costs and gas prices projected to increase over the coming years it is hoped that alternative energy will become the cleaner and more cost-effective energy source. New installations are trending in this direction with renewables such as wind and solar now increasing at a fast rate. As the electrical generation industry tries to balance the demand load, we are at a crossroads of how energy will be generated and consumed, presenting opportunities for the future.
Virtual power plants hope to decentralise power generation into smaller Distributed Energy Resources (DER). It is estimated that by 2050 between 30 and 45 per cent of Australia’s entire electricity needs will come from customer-owned generators. These community microgrids will aim to balance loads and provide reliability to an already overloaded network. Due to the smaller more efficient networks, less resistive losses will occur as energy will be passed across shorter distances leading to lower investment cost in infrastructure. Customer owned assets will rely on solar generation, a clean energy source and problems in network supply can be isolated resulting in minimal customer disturbances and increases in reliability.
Lack of coherent policy has stifled changes to the electricity network. Strong leadership is required with forward and holistic thinking to enable the complex changes required to develop the grid into the future. Removing the existing barriers will allow innovative thinkers and consumers access to the marketplace. Transparency will allow trust and knowledge between consumers and private enterprise with smarter more efficient systems leading to positive outcomes for carbon abatement and the community.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people hold their own seasonal descriptions. It has been imbedded in their culture for 60 thousand years, influenced by ocean, land plants and animals.
For modern agriculture there are multiple resources, advising people when to sow and harvest. The technological advances in energy, with access to readily available water, means western culture can industrially and scientifically produce crops in one location. This removes deep connection from the land, instead of feeling a breathing organism that produces food from its natural movements. The need for mobility across a landscape that can be highly variable is vital. Just as farmers de-stock and move cattle around this vast landscape, to feed ourselves.
Since colonisation there have been many communication breakdowns leading to misunderstandings between cultures. In the strict sense did the indigenous practice the fenced European way of agriculture, no. They practiced feeding populations of people from one large land mass with many interconnected seasonal patterns.
Into the future we will see where climate change takes our current practices, will we adapt in the same way as 20000 years ago, during ‘Australia’s ice age’, which lasted 5000 years. We need to integrate indigenous land practice with European farming, or will we once again be practicing a ‘form’ of agriculture unknown to us.
As more and more towns are declaring climate emergencies its about time governments begin to push harder for changes in industry. NSW and QLD towns are nearing day zero with farms trucking in large quantities of water to supply crops and animals. Not only are vulnerable food bowls, which support the larger cities ,at risk of below average yields the increases in costs directly effect farmers and the community as the price of food rises. Are we doing enough to push new sustainable practices? I believe we have a long way to go to not only curbing emissions but reducing runoff and damage to the Barrier Reef. Its a complex topic with far reaching discussions and deserves a lot more then a short blog. Though, raising awareness goes some way to improving the publics knowledge and assists those to make good choices, buy local and buy fresh.
Once again the home will be open to the public for the third consecutive year. Come and checkout what is possible in a 730sqm suburban block . Houses around the country take part and it is fast becoming the way of the future to build efficient cost effective homes.Check out the link for those that are taking part, houses are released closer to the date. https://sustainablehouseday.com/#
Work has begun on Isa Downs 50acre property. The system will have plenty of water pressure through the use of a 2.5kw Italian made Calpeda pump, an adjustable flow controller assists to regulate pressure and power use. A pump start relay provides automated pump switching delivered through a signal from the fully programmable timed irrigation controller. With a fully equipped mobile setup we can go anywhere to install your ideal system
Coming soon, seedling production will commence. An aquaponic flood and drain system will be used to raise various organic stock, watch this space.
Work has commenced on Isa Downs Burrum Heads Farm. Only in its infancy the first paddock has been ploughed. Roughly one acre and full shade cloth protection to come, initial thoughts point to an organic market garden with varied fruit trees, chillies and seasonal greens. Water is provided through a 2inch main line, a 25mm tee is controlled via solenoids operated with a 12 station hunter panel for full automation.
Permaculture type system, zone one has been fully planted. The ground covers have established well with the Buckwheat just reaching flower it will be turned with a good layer of sugarcane to promote top soil production, encourage beneficial insects and retain soil moisture.
The small dam wall area will get some attention, with a row of feijoas and some edible ground covers to prevent erosion off the dam wall. Surrounding the hedge some taller species have been used with the likes of grumichama, guava, phalsa and some understorey finger limes.
Bottom plantings have been completed leading out from the native violet ground covers and gingers we head into a complex under storey and canopy system. The main canopy consists of hog plum, madrono and light emitting vegetable humingbirds. Shade loving coffees are below with native lilly pilly and acerola cherries hedged on a sunny outskirt. Swale drains are capturing and slowing water heading into the dam and storing it within the soil. Soil was an issue with a rocky subsoil a clay type bedding sand was bought in and will help with water retention, a top soil was used to cover untill the seeded beds of cowpea, millet and buckwheat start to add biomass.