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A connected investment - Goanna Ag

Goanna Ag offers on-farm sensor solutions to increase water use efficiency, profitability and sustainability. Rosie O’Keeffe discovers the benefit of the initial rollout of the LoRaWAN network throughout the irrigated cotton industry, even where telecommunications have not existed.

Specialist Goanna Ag field teams have been installing new and cost-effective communication networks across the 30,000 square kilometres of irrigated cotton regions in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area, Namoi, Gwydir, Macintyre and Macquarie Valleys which will drive profitability, increase on-farm efficiency and help mitigate risks for growers. According to Goanna Ag Chief Executive Officer Alicia Garden there are two main focus areas with the installation of sensor systems, which are water management in irrigated cotton and across the farm assets. She says that through the sensors the irrigation required can be predicted up to 10 days in advance, and the sensors can show where there is movement of water and where it is being lost in infrastructure. “Our solution ‘Go Field’ will enable farmers to manage and monitor crop water use. The technology can view and understand how quickly the plant is drawing moisture out of the soil and the best time to schedule the new irrigation. This information is then fed into the GoSat analytics program so

growers can fine-tune their water use efficiency as accurately as possible,” Alicia says. “Every day that a cotton crop is under stress from lack of water can cost a grower $100 per hectare. We want to help growers know just the right amount of water to use on crops at just the right time so they can optimise their performance and profit. “We are rolling this out across the cotton industry initially and then we’ll look to expand the network and the commercial value of rolling it out further afield and into other commodities including viticulture, horticulture, dairy and eventually dryland farming.” The point of difference between other technology providers has been in the company’s initial capital raising venture which has meant the networks remain more affordable. Goanna Ag announced $3.35 million in growth funding from prominent public and privately owned businesses including Westpac Banking Corporation, GrainCorp Operations Pty Ltd and Michael Hintze Premium Farm Holdings adding to the initial investment made by Delta Ag and David Murray to be used to deliver Goanna Ag’s business objectives.

“Through this capital raising, we are thrilled to be able to focus on completing the network and expanding local teams and field technicians in key regions so we can meet growing demand in the solutions and provide timely support to more cotton growers,” Alicia says. “With multiple entry and exit points for water across the farm, the cost of manual management and measurement is significant. “We estimate labour costs for water management across the industry to be in excess of $100 million, but with no limits on connectivity in the paddock now, centralised data will drive efficiencies in water and labour use. “The sensor range in the GoSense solution will allow a farmer to measure, monitor and alert various points of water entry and exit across a farm including water sources like channels and head ditches, storages, tanks, meters and pumps, rain events and evaporation. We are also excited by the application in diesel storages, asset tracking and other solutions under development.” Alicia says that there are three main challenges that have been identified and Goanna Ag intends to solve: connectivity, cost and complexity. “Whilst mobile connectivity has a place in capturing farm sensor data, there remains a couple of fundamental challenges.

Firstly, there are still plenty of ‘black spots’ across Australian agriculture which prevent data transmission. But, and this is important to understand, even where coverage is satisfactory, the power required to ‘drive’ the sensors adds a significant cost,” Alicia went on to explain.This is why Goanna Ag chose LoRaWAN as their new network solution.

“LoRaWAN, long range wide area network, allows us to build a network specifically designed to create, send and receive small packets of farm data at around half the current price,” Alicia says. “This has been a major breakthrough for growers and, at last, the potential of easy to understand, real time and cost effective insights is now a reality. This is a genuine game changer.”

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