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AgTech case study - Water Rat PIRSA

Trough or Tank Sensor – Farmo 

AgTech case study

The Farmo Water Rat trough and tank sensor remotely monitors trough or tank water level. 

How does it work?

The Water Rat floats in the trough or tank and uses accelerometer tilt sensors to detect movement, and when the Water Rat reaches low levels in either a trough or tank, it tilts over, triggering an alert – sent to your mobile device. When the water level returns to normal levels, another alert is triggered. The Water Rat is easily transported by simply picking it up out of the trough and moving it to the next trough. If using the Water Rat in a tank, a tether also has to be purchased to tether the Water Rat, so an alert is given if the tank is at 50% capacity.  

Water Rat in trough

Fig. 1. Farmo Water Rat in a trough at Struan. 

Value proposition 

The Farmo Water Rat reduces the number of water runs required, therefore lowering labour and driving costs. Water Rat is being used at the BPDF farm to monitor water troughs. Due to the portability of Water Rat, it is moved with the mob when they are moved into a new paddock. Monitoring devices do not eliminate the need to inspect tanks and troughs, but mean checks are required less frequently. Through the water usage graph, pump health and water leaks can be identified early, reducing the risk of livestock going without water. 

Return on investment (ROI)

Purchase price: $545 excluding GST.

Ongoing data subscription costs: $135 excluding GST, per year, for one device. 

Low water levels may go undetected for days, while water leaks can go undetected for weeks, if not longer. The use of the monitoring devices does not eliminate the need to check water tanks and troughs but reduces how often these checks are needed. The Kybybolite farm is located 37km north east of the Struan farm and is not as regularly patrolled. Considering the distance between the farms, we estimate water runs to be reduced by 50%. Our estimate is that the investment costs will be recovered in first year of installation, even if no water issues are detected. If a significant out of water event went undetected even for a few days, livestock weight loss and death could occur resulting in significant production losses.   

Table 1 outlines the costs of Farmo Water Rat compared with manually checking stock water at our Kybybolite property. If your property relies on reticulated water, these costs will be considerably higher. 

Table 1: Estimated return on investment of the Farmo Water Rat over three years compared to no water monitoring.

No water monitoring and manual water checks

Water monitoring - Year 1

50% reduction in time spent checking tanks and troughs

Water monitoring - Year 2

50% reduction in time spent checking tanks and troughs

Water monitoring - Year 3

50% reduction in time spent checking tanks and troughs

Purchase price and ongoing data costs1

$-

$680 

($545 + $135)

$135

$135

Labour cost2

$4,387.50

$2,193.75

$2,193.75

$2,193.75

Motor vehicle cost3

$3,090.24

$1,545.12

$1,545.12

$1,545.12

Total costs

$7,477.74

$4,418.87

$3,873.87

$3,873.87

Profit4

$0

$3,738.87 

$7,477.74 

$11,216.61 

RoI5

450% of investment and on-going costs recovered

818% of investment and on-going costs recovered

1081% of investment and on-going costs recovered

1Purchase price correct as of April 2022. 2Estimated labour cost of $50/hour to check waters. 

3Motor vehicle costs estimated at $0.72/km. 4Profit calculations estimated from a 50% reduction in labour and vehicle costs. 5RoI calculations assume no water issues have been detected in 3 years. 

Dashboards

Farmo provides a text message or email alert if the trough is empty. You can also monitor the information online from your phone, tablet or computer. 

Fig. 2. Email message notification that the trough has returned to normal levels (left picture) and online dashboard information (right picture). 

Connectivity requirements 

  • The Water Rat uses a NB-IoT (Narrowband Internet of Things) connection to send data back to your computer, phone or tablet.

Installation and power  

  • The Water Rat is light and easily installed by placing it in a trough or tank. A small magnet is placed on the side of the Water Rat to activate it before placing into the trough. 
  • When installing into a tank, it is recommended to tether the Water Rat to the side of the tank to allow an alert to be sent when the tank is 50% full, rather than when the tank is completely empty.
  • Powered by a Lithium-Ion non-rechargeable battery (8000 mAh Li/SOCl2) for long-term use.
  • Pricing model

    • Hardware and annual subscription costs for data and service. 

    How can I view this? 

    • To view the Water Rat at Struan Research Centre, contact Robyn Terry at robyn.terry@sa.gov.au or 0418 631 842. 

    Find out more about Farmo

    Nick Seymour 

    Phone: 0434 555 804 

    Email: Nick@farmo.com.au 


    Visit https://www.farmo.com.au/ for more information about Farmo Water Rat.

    Contact

    Robyn Terry - AgTech Co-innovation Officer

    Email: robyn.terry@sa.gov.au

    Phone: 0418 631 842


    Andy Phelan – AgTech Development Officer

    Email: andrew.phelan@elders.com.au 

    Phone: 0427 619 941


    Visit pir.sa.gov.au/primary_industry/agtech/attend_demos/struan_kybybolite_demo_farms for more information about Struan and Kybybolite Best Practice Demonstration Farm.


    The Struan and Kybybolite Best Practice Demonstration Farm are a partnership between the Thomas Elder Institute, Elders’ research, development and extension entity, and the South Australian Government’s Department of Primary Industries and Regions.