PERTH-based technology company Origo has developed a totally integrated real-time remote-control, monitoring and data-gathering system for Western Australian and Australian farmers.
The system is already being used by several corporate and large farms and large stations in the northern parts of WA, which has one of the largest networks of its kind in Australia, a water management system covering 130,000 hectares of station country.
The company also has provided a broadacre climate monitoring system for all parts of the grain growing season across some of the largest broadacre operations in WA, including a 40,000ha farm at Mingenew.
According to company founder and managing director Annie Brox, the latest development is on the back of several years of research and development within the company and in collaboration with existing clients.
"We have now become one of the few manufacturers in Australia making our own software and hardware, including proprietary electronics which are fitted inside tough, fit-for-purpose hardware in aluminium, high-resistance plastics and no exposed cables,'' Ms Brox said.
"Our designs are now plug-and-play.
"We have a modern development and manufacturing facility where we can do quick prototyping through design and 3-D printing leading to injection moulding.
"Our main aim has been to add value to agriculture by creating a system which is easy to use, easy to maintain and easy to replace while bringing increased cost efficiencies and sustainability to farming practices.
"As we are controlling all parts of the process, we can also custom-make systems for special needs, however all our standard systems are totally scalable systems.
"We can see increasing demand from farmers including solar-powered base and repeater stations, weather stations and tank monitoring systems, which are among our favorite products.
"The weather stations are very popular because in our system they can provide for example, real-time spray conditions, where they can see changes in conditions with a 10-minute update frequency.
"Another feature is our rainfall distribution maps, that create a map of the rainfall event, last month and the accumulated rainfall for this season, this has got to be a very important tool for nitrogen application decisions.
"Rainfall is generally the limiting factor when making management decisions so farmers are not just getting information about the point where you have a weather station, but they are able to see how the rainfall is distributed throughout the paddocks, which is key to getting a better handle on managing crops through the growing season.
"And real-time data allows better planning, for example, when spraying or to be able to more accurately see the severity of frost events.
"Our system provides a 10-minute cycle updating Delta T conditions so you can plan the best time to go spraying.
"And the data received also is important to assess hazardous conditions that can increase a fire risk."
For Tammin farmer Brad Jones, Bungulla Farming, who installed the Origo system on his farms several years ago, having real-time data generated every 10 minutes from 16 weather stations strategically positioned throughout the farm to the home server, puts him in a "more comfortable and confident position" to optimise productivity with the availability of real-time data.
His farm monitoring network, designed by Origo, with a private low-power local network provides real-time data monitoring, data analysis and automatic map generation.
"Our systems employs two network technologies: a meshing network technology using the ISM public frequency available from the Australian Communication and Media Authority (ACMA) as well as Telstra's Internet of Things (IoT) 5G service as a supplement when there is a requirement for a few monitoring points on some farm blocks away from the home farm,'' Ms Brox said.
"We use both network technologies and, for example, at Wyalong in Tenindewa and in this case the meshing private network is used on the home farm and the Telstra network used on remote farm blocks 75 kilometres away from the home farm.
"So, it gives the farm 24/7 coverage and all data is sent to the main server every 10 minutes."
Essentially it works through Origo-manufactured devices that pick up signals from weather stations and moisture probes to automatically generate moisture maps, aggregate data on temperature, relative humidity, rainfall and Delta T conditions, wind, temperature and many other sensors depending on the requirements for the individual farm along with an app for remote access to the data.
At Bungulla Farming, weather stations, soil moisture stations and tank monitors are sited 5 to 15km apart, where the stations themselves are both repeaters and monitoring points, to provide an over-lapping meshing network.
The Origo app enables remote monitoring of all the data, for all parts of the season from seeding conditions through the harvest, such as rainfall, temperature, heat load maps, humidity, wind, soil moisture and Delta T conditions.
"All stations do not need all sensors, eg on a 6000 hectare farm, you may only need four stations with wind, while you want rainfall on all six weather and tank monitoring stations,'' Mr Jones said.
"We also have a unique six metre weather station product for areas that are prone to inversion layers and frost condition, inversion layers are easily identifiable from the regular data feed.
"This means that you can avoid costly incidents with spray drift and know what damage and what to do following a frost event.
"Each 6m weather station monitors weather at three intervals - at 6m high, 3m and ground level - measuring rainfall, temperature, solar radiation, relative humidity, wind speed and direction.
"With such a bank of data, maps are created automatically in our central server at home, at a statistical confidence level, meaning you can trust the data."
According to Ms Brox, the Origo developed designs farm systems are made to suit appropriate environments and WA farmers have provided the feedback and assisted us in making these systems better and better.
"We do not stop here, we continuously co-operate with our farmers to add value and efficiency,'' she said.
"What is good for our customers is making our products good for international markets.
"We work with farmers to determine the best positions for weather stations and we also have moisture probes in dominant soil types because different soil types have different moisture-holding capacities," she said.
"The probes tell us where the moisture is aggregating and where it's not and we can interface that data with information from the weather stations to generate moisture maps that are current but also that can be expanded by inputting historical data and customers can compare with satellite biomass maps.
"Our data provide the all-important ground-truthing to be able to utilise for instance satellite data."
The other popular system is Tank Top, which is particularly popular in the livestock industry.
It is not only measuring tank level, but also flow for instance to a trough and from pump as well as rainfall.
Origo also has developed its own flow sensor for real-time monitoring of tanks, troughs or to identify pipe leaks.
This is another unique product from Origo.
It has been developed to be used with pipe components common in agriculture, is easy to install and maintain and won't get clogged up that easily from particles in the water.
"It's another product we've created to solve a need, we are not sitting in Perth and conjuring up products at an office desk, but actively out in the industry and listening to feedback from our customers," Ms Brox said.
All Origo monitoring can be set up with alerts, this means that an SMS alert can be sent if a tank level is below for instance 40 per cent.
"We also can link up UAN tanks, for example, to provide added live information to farmers,'' she said.
"With our products you just need one device for multiple tanks side-by-side, which cuts the cost substantially
"With all this technology, it sets up a very exciting future for the whole agricultural industry," Ms Brox said.
She said Origo was focused on future growth in the Eastern States where several companies use Origo's systems.
"WA has been an excellent proving ground for us," she said.
"But we have not adopted a shotgun approach to the market.
"We work with our customers and develop the products based on feedback in our home market, which is giving us the best platform for both the national and international markets.
"We are a company that controls the technology development and manufacture which gives us enormous flexibility to develop technology that fits the market.
"When it comes to sales and service, we are using best-practice go-to-market models from similar markets to ensure competitive pricing and good customer service.
"This has provided a fit-the-farm approach with on-going service and that is proving to be very popular with farmers."