Telemetry - remote eyes on the ground

04 January 2016

Telemetry has been applied in Australia’s agricultural systems and remote rangelands for many years, providing valuable real-time operational and managerial data while considerably reducing the labour and fuel costs that would traditionally be incurred in visiting remote sites, including water points.

While the technology has improved over time, particularly with the integration of mobile phone networks, telemetry systems can work equally well with UHF radio systems. These can incorporate routers and repeater towers, if required, to cover long distances or if the line-of-sight between sending and receiving antennas is disrupted.

During a recent Bestprac webinar Jane Luckraft from ‘Bendleby Ranges’, near Orroroo, South Australia, outlined how installing telemetry and incorporating sensors and cameras across the station has enabled remote monitoring of water supplies. The sensors provide readings of the water level in tanks, while the cameras provide additional information to verify that supply lines to troughs are operational.

The Luckrafts have also installed several remotely operated pumps that can be turned on and off from the homestead, or even when they are away from the station via a smart phone. While Jane is careful to stress that telemetry has not completely eliminated the need to physically inspect water points, it has enabled a significant reduction in the number of water runs required each week, particularly during hot weather.

Remotely operated gates are also being trialled on Bendleby Ranges, with the ultimate aim to be able to remotely manage grazing over two rotational grazing cells incorporating a central watering system monitored by a camera. This will involve sub-dividing two existing paddocks into eight cells, each with a central water cell.

Like other producers that have installed telemetry systems, the Luckrafts value the cost savings in fuel, wear and tear to vehicles and time which can now be directed to other business activities.

The Harvey family, from ‘Gilgai Farms’, Geurie NSW, have also installed a telemetry system, primarily to monitor stock water points, as part of a Producer Demonstration Site (PDS). The Harveys estimate this saves them 14 hours a week, allowing them to spend more time marketing their livestock.

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