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Get connected

23 May 2019

A new report outlining the ways producers can implement connectivity on-farm is helping to unlock the benefits of new digital technologies.

MLA joined forces with professional service company KPMG and agrifood innovation leaders Aatlis to produce the Agri 4.0 Connectivity at our Fingertips report, released this month. It highlights the $20.3 billion uplift in gross value produce estimated to be available via digital agriculture, and addresses the feeling among producers that they’re at a disadvantage due to an inability to achieve on-farm connectivity.

Setting up digital infrastructure on-farm

Sean Starling, MLA’s General Manager of MDC, Research, Development and Innovation, said producers were looking to concepts such as Internet of Things (IoT) and the sensor-heavy Factory 4.0, which has been widely publicised and is gathering steam globally across many industries.

“It all requires data to be connected. In a city environment with easy access to 4G and NBN, that’s not a problem,” he said.

“But if you’re on a farm with no NBN, you have to put your own communication infrastructure in to allow sensors to talk to each other.

“If you’re looking to make your farm digital – if you buy a soil sensor or a weather station – one consideration needs to be how you get the data from the sensors back to your computer or phone. That is, how you make it useable.”

The report outlines different types of data communication protocols, including LPWAN, Sigfox, digital UHF and satellite. It informs producers about the different protocols that exist and discusses the positives and negatives of each. Case studies are used to demonstrate how some producers are engaging with this technology, what they’ve learnt and what works on their farms.

Connecting the entire supply chain

Sean said MLA pursues the concept of connectivity and a digitally-enabled supply chain for many reasons.

“Consumers are demanding more information about how and where the product is produced,” he said.

“Non-consumers also are seeking evidence it’s being produced in an ethical and sustainable way – they want information ranging from environmental use to animal welfare and energy consumption.

“Further down the supply chain, building these technologies into a farm has massive potential. It’s real time information, accessed more frequently than would otherwise be possible. Put simply, it can enhance the quality of business decisions exponentially.”

Meanwhile, MLA is also working with Food Agility CRC to build an online resource where producers can find out what ag-tech solutions are available.