Improving the profitability & sustainability of Esperance port zone grain growers

Internet of Things

Internet of things project highlights strengths and weaknesses in current technology

 Mark Wandel

Mark and Hayley Wandel and Phil and Bindy Longmire

Scaddan and Beaumont

Lessons learned
  • Paddock weather stations, soil moisture probes and tank sensors can all support efficient, streamlined and consistent management decisions in larger broadscale operations that rely on staff.
  • Technology is changing fast and in paddock hardware such as soil moisture probes need to be maintained and serviced.
  • Growers will need to have confidence in a technology business before they purchase equipment in the future.

The Internet of Things project ended in March 2020. The Wandels and Phil and Bindy Longmire funded 50% each of the cost of equipment which was installed into both properties by Phillip Honey of Environmental and Cropping Technologies Australia and Origo Farm.

DPIRD invested almost $40,000 into the project which utilised 3G/4G and Wi-Fi in a mesh network as a connectivity solution to support IoT operation through a collaboration of data sharing between the two neighbours with several adjoining properties at Beaumont and then back to Scaddan.

Having properties spread in a 170km radius in varying climates presents challenges for staff making decisions based on seasonal conditions. Time and money were often wasted by driving to another farm, only to find that conditions weren’t right. Installing weather stations, soil moisture probes and tank sensors across the properties in 2019 now supported management and employees to make good and timely decisions using the technology to back them up.

Sharing the data gave a broader picture of such things as soil moisture, rainfall, humidity, temperature and wind speed and direction across the adjoining properties.

Knowing how much rain and soil moisture would give confidence in that final N application decision and earlier in the season, a good indication of inputs at sowing. “Although the information on its own isn’t always reliable, it all helps with the gut feel."

The both growers expected marginal areas couldn’t justify purchasing technology still due to the cost and lack of confidence in the many start-up technology providers being able to provide follow up service and maintenance.

One of the best things to come from the project for the Wandels had been the installation of a repeater station in the shed that beamed back to the house. This enabled a lot more data to be shared from the mobiles owned in their company.

This project was one of fifteen sharing in $583,000 of funding through the eConnected Grainbelt Project’s WA Internet of Things (IoT) DecisionAg Grant Program.

DPIRD black hires