Landmark partnership set to generate agricultural innovation

It may come as a surprise to many that, for close to three decades, the University of New England (UNE) has been an integral player within the Australian beef farming industry. In recent years, the institution has pioneered a new, technologically-driven wave of agricultural practices, carrying out a substantive range of industry research from their Tullimba-based SMART farm—a world-class feedlot research and training facility.

The facility is located 40 km southwest of Armidale, NSW, and spans across 740 ha of farmland. But what, exactly, constitutes a ‘smart’ farm? In the case of Tullimba, the farm maintains a sophisticated internal data network, with individual nodes measuring critical metrics across every operational area of the facility; from feed consumption, to the sensory recognition of cattle.

While UNE’s cutting-edge research has continued to hold implications within the wider Australian agricultural sector, the Tullimba facility has been historically impeded by a lack of internet coverage as a result of its remote location. The issue of connectivity has been a pain point for researchers throughout the years, inhibiting their ability to carry out research and development efficiently, if at all.

Recently, UNE sought to put an end to this increasingly problematic situation, announcing a three-year partnership with Pivotel Group that will significantly increase their research capacity at Tullimba. Working in close collaboration with the team at UNE, Pivotel is set to deliver a custom-built mobile network, offering uninterrupted coverage across the farm’s remote location. UNE’s Industry Engagement Officer, Rachelle Hergenha, believes the partnership marks the start of a new era for Tullimba.

“The partnership with Pivotel has been a turning point for the University’s remote Tullimba SMART farm, with the network providing our researchers with a range of new and exciting monitoring opportunities, enriching the study of agriculture for students and faculty across all levels”, Ms. Hergenha continued, “The remote site is no longer limited by a lack of standard connectivity in the area”.

UNE’s connection to Pivotel’s EcoSphere® network solution will ensure they maintain uninhibited access to farm data, in real time. EcoSphere® will provide the farm with secure, long-range connections to assets including gates, pumps, machinery and animals; allowing researchers to record, track, monitor and control the farm with unprecedented bandwidth. The service also operates on a private network—continuing to function when the internet connection is down.

This will allow Tullimba to remodel the functionality of their tracking, monitoring and control technology to reflect their new-found operational capability; improving productivity at the farm, while reducing labour and operating costs. It will also deliver more accurate feed consumption data to researchers, enhancing their ability to find correlations between consumption and livestock weight gain, among other variables.

Beyond connectivity, the partnership will support the University’s continued research into the agricultural sector, including innovative new developments around cattle facial recognition and identification. From Pivotel’s perspective, these types of partnerships are exciting, providing the opportunity to solve complex problems in some of Australia’s most isolated areas.

The UNE partnership is representative of the dynamic applications of Pivotel’s satellite technologies, and with EcoSphere® currently being rolled out across the Western Australian wheatbelt—more exciting new partnerships are likely to soon emerge.