AgTech provides on-farm labour savings
About the Case Study
Smart Farm Sensor Demonstrations: This project is supported by Glenelg Hopkins CMA, through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program, Agriculture Victoria, Grasslands Society of Southern Australia, Southern Farming Systems and Southern Grampians Shire Council. The project runs from 2019-21 and tests and demonstrates a range of devices on farms in the south west region, including stock water and tank monitors, soil moisture probes, electric fence sensors and weather stations. The sensors provide real-time feedback to producers enabling them to make more informed decisions and better use of labour, time and capital.
James and Jodie Young have been testing digital technology (AgTech) on their property ‘Eulong’ near Cavendish in Western Victoria. Together with James’ parents, the couple manage around 700 cattle and 12,500 sheep across 2,700 hectares and took part in the Smart Farm Sensor Demonstration with their local Grassland Society of Southern Australia (GSSA) group.
Their aim was to investigate whether AgTech could assist with remote monitoring to mitigate risks across their geographically disperse properties. The Youngs hoped the sensor could potentially reduce labour requirements and offer benefits for work-life balance.
The Youngs installed several sensors which have given them confidence to remotely manage their out-block 30km away and immediately achieve labour savings. The estimated net benefits of the AgTech on their out-block is approximately $4,760 in one year.
Electric fence sensor
The electric fence sensor monitors the voltage of the electric fence on the out-block.
The dashboard activates an SMS alert when the voltage drops below a set threshold, which triggers James to investigate the fault.
Prior to installing the electric fence sensor on the out-block, the Youngs paid an employee to drive the return trip at least twice per week to manually check the fence for faults.
The installation of the electric fence sensor now means the fences are only checked on average once a fortnight and the employee is only called out if there is a fault detected in the system.
Tube device inserted in drinking troughThe trough sensor monitors the water level within the trough, enabling SMS alerts to be sent when water drops below a set threshold.
Prior to installing the trough sensors, water points were only checked when required based on weather conditions (i.e. higher frequency through warmer months). Outside of summer, troughs were typically checked twice per week. Since installing the trough sensor, this has been reduced to once per week. However, daily checks have continued in summer.
The installation of the trough sensor has also reduced the risk of stock being without water between daily checks in summer.
Tank depth sensor
The tank sensor has a pressure probe at the base of the tank which enables the water level to be displayed on the dashboard.
Prior to installing the sensor tanks were manually checked once per week, now they are only routinely checked once per fortnight.
The depth sensors have provided surety to water availability, taking the guesswork out of tank water storage levels. The dashboard also tells the Youngs when the tank is filling, or water is being used. This is useful for diagnosing pump issues or pipe leaks and times of high-water demand.
Monetary savings from diagnosing large-scale tank water loss include potential stock loss and stress, pregnancy loss, time cost for stock relocation and water point damage.
*post case study this product was revised to the Water Rat design
Metal latch with magnet installed on a farm gate. The gate sensor uses a metal latch and magnet installed on the gate. The sensor recognises when the latch is in the closed position and will trigger an alert as it is opened.
It is vital for the Youngs to know when their out-block has been entered or if gates have been inadvertently left open.
Like the tank level sensors, the alert service provides peace of mind to know when there is traffic (intended or unintended) on their property. All entries to the property are time stamped, which provides evidence of any unauthorised entry.