In May this year, Charles Sturt University and Food Agility announced that they will partner to build the Global Digital Farm, Australia’s first fully-automated commercial farm, at Charles Sturt’s AgriPark in Wagga Wagga.
The Global Digital Farm will demonstrate the future of farming through pioneering projects involving robotics and artificial intelligence and by creating new sustainability and carbon models to drive improvements in farming practice.
Connectivity is essential for many of these technologies and for this reason it is fitting that the first of these projects to be announced involves Zetifi providing long-range Wi-Fi connectivity that can be accessed right across the farm.
Zetifi will work alongside researchers at Charles Sturt University and University of Technology Sydney to develop antenna arrays that can be fitted to mobile and stationary farming equipment to provide long-range communication. Tractors and trucks will become roving Wi-Fi devices with a range of up to 5 kilometres to provide farm-wide internet coverage.
Food Agility Chief Scientist, Professor David Lamb, said the new technology would be enabling infrastructure for Australian agriculture.
“Improving connectivity for Australian farmers is the single most critical factor in driving productivity and sustainability in agriculture,” Professor Lamb said.
“Farmers increasingly rely on high-level data analytics, automation and networks of devices that talk to each other over vast distances. This new technology will connect people and devices far beyond the farm gate and will be the backbone for the future of autonomous farming.”
CEO of Zetifi, Dan Winson, said farmers deserved the same connectivity for their businesses as those in urban areas.
“I’ve seen farmers perform the most amazing acts of contortion, hanging out tractor windows and climbing up ladders, trying to get a decent connection,” Mr Winson said.
“This will be an Australian-designed solution, made for Australian conditions to deliver connectivity wherever it’s needed on the farm. It will complement NBN wireless broadband and satellite coverage, helping farmers to transfer critical data across our vast landscapes.”
The technology will be a combination of adapted off-the-shelf and bespoke solutions, including a custom antenna array that is being developed in collaboration with experts from the University of Technology Sydney.
Co-Director, RF and Communication Technologies Laboratory (RFCT) at UTS and Sensing Innovations Lead at Food Agility CRC, Dr Negin Shariati explains the technology in development.
“At the heart of communication system which provides long-range connectivity is an antenna. RFCT-UTS researchers will design new types of antennas integrated with custom RF module for enabling long-range communications in smart farms, ” Dr Negin Shariata said.