Remote water monitoring technology developed and brought to market by Farmbot recently won several categories in the Technology Scale-Up Award including, Sustainability, CleanTech, and Agtech. Farmbot’s win reflects the importance of technological innovation in the agricultural sector.” For Australian livestock, water is by far the most important resource,” says Andrew Coppin, managing director of Farmbot.
Farmbot’s water monitoring technology provides 24/7 access to data regarding the water on their property. This gives farmers valuable insight into how water networks are functioning. The monitoring system saves time, money and water.
According to Mr Coppin, “Outside of sustainability, there are four core reasons why Farmers seek out remote monitoring:
1. Financial – for producers, conducting regular bore runs is costly to the business. Labour, fuel and vehicle use add up to thousands of dollars a year, and that’s even before factoring in the opportunity costs of other tasks that couldn’t be confirmed. Our subscription model conducts the same work more accurately, in real-time and at a cheaper price.
2. Peace of mind – perhaps more than the financial aspect, is the simple peace of mind that having access to your water data in the palm of your hand provides. Our customers tell us that they can enjoy time with family or take a short holiday and truly be present because they know that if anything goes wrong with their water, they will be alerted immediately.
3. Labour shortages – The agriculture industry has always grappled with challenges relating to labour and these issues have been exacerbated exponentially by COVID-19 with volatile state borders and ongoing closed international borders dramatically affecting the ability of producers to hire workers. The Farmbot solution removes this issue for many livestock producers, with the technology able to replace the manual task of checking water which is often the task of the mobile, casual workforce.
4. Time – Related to the other additions is simply the creation of more time in a farmer’s day. For a big cattle station, some of our customers have estimated that installing the Farmbot unit is akin to receiving a bonus day in their week. The hours not spent checking water can be reallocated to more meaningful tasks, or for more time at home.”
Why water monitoring is important
To contend with the changing climate, farmers will increasingly need to rely on robust water monitoring technology. Mr Coppin said, “Simply put, water is the lifeblood of Australian livestock. The first thought of every farmer when they wake up is typically ‘Do my cattle have water?I need to check the pump is working. What is the rain forecast?’ or something along those lines.”
“But with weather extremes becoming more pronounced and less predictable, water is becoming harder to manage. Droughts are becoming more intense and prolonged, and whilst producers can’t change the weather, they can put measures in place to better prepare.”
Farmers understanding their water networks is a serious issue in the Australian context, yet there has been disappointingly little innovation in the field. With agriculture being one of Australia’s most significant industries and water being one of Australia’s scarcest resources, technological advancements are vital to growth in the agricultural sector.
Mr Coopin said, “When water is scarce, every drop counts. Technology gives farmers water management tools that provide real-time oversight of all their water from anywhere, anytime. This will ensure a major issue can be attended to immediately, rather than finding out 24+ hours later.”
Digital or precision agriculture is a branch of technology that allows agriculturalists access to up to date data about their land. Farmbot’s water monitoring systems are a great example of digital technology in agriculture. The use of precision technology in agriculture is believed to be one of the crucial factors in ensuring sustainable practices in farming.
Mr Coopin said, “The UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals has key targets around the need to strengthen the resilience and adaptive capacity to extreme climatic events and natural disasters.
“The implications of these events on the sustainability of agriculture and for Australian farmers are immense. More and more farmers are turning to technology to help understand microclimates and manage their current resources. Enabling them to better plan and adapt operations to be equipped for increasing climate variability.”
Moving towards sustainable agricultural practices will mean Australia will remain one of the world’s great food bowls in the climate-conscious age. Precision tech is one way Australian farmers can prove to the world; their practice is still a gold standard of agriculture.
“Considerations around emission target reduction will only increase for Australian farmers, as we watch the EU move to introduce carbon tariffs on imports and several Australian agricultural sectors introducing their own sustainability frameworks and goals,” said Mr Coopin.
Innovation in agriculture
Australian agriculture needs to adapt to a changing world. For farms to remain productive, efficiency and increased sustainability are critical. This is no easy task, but the adoption and creation of innovative technology and processes can help” Mr Coopin continued.
“The National Farmers’ Federation is aiming for Australian agriculture to become a $100 billion industry by 2030, and this aim is backed by the government. But to be completely frank – we are not going to get there without an increased adoption of on-farm innovation.
“We’ve always had a robust and strong agriculture industry and our farmers are hard-working. However, innovation is needed for the agriculture sector to remain productive and competitive in a changing and unpredictable world.
“Whether it be remote sensing, farm software management, or precision agriculture, agritech will help shore up our agriculture sector, improve our sustainability, productivity, profitability and help manage climate variability.
“Moreover, with an aligned strategy, smart investment and impactful action, we could be leading the field, supporting our farmers and boosting our economy by targeting some of the US$500Bn a year that is being invested in agritech goods and services around the world. Not only will that help our farmers but significantly boost our rural and regional economies.”