Some of Western Australia's most progressive grain and livestock producers are investing in locally-produced technology that monitors detailed weather and environmental conditions to assess variations across farms - and to remotely control and monitor everything from water, fertiliser, fuel, bins, desalination plants, pumps and more.
The data generated by the Origo.ag weather stations helps optimise productivity by improving crop yields and quality and, at the same time, it provides a basis to understand variability for farmers that are working in traditional farming systems, as well as precision agricultural (PA) systems that employ variable rate technology (VRT) to reduce inputs for long-term sustainability and increase productivity in good and bad years.
The Origo.ag weather station data is also - in many cases - combined with data from other sources, such as weather forecasts and satellite data.
Based on the information these tools provide, farmers can make key decisions about crop status, weather forecasts and environmental changes.
Based in Bibra Lake, the latest technology in monitoring, control systems and weather and soil monitoring systems are being manufactured and now used by Australian farmers, through a growing reseller and service partner network across Australia.
Origo.ag has also won the trust of many of the biggest Australian cropping corporations.
The Origo.ag agri technology is developed and manufactured by Origo.ag.
All components - from the electronics through to software to the industrial design - are created and owned by Origo.ag.
Origo.ag has contracted parts of its products to a range of sub-contractors, and final assembly is done in Bibra Lake using the Toyota Production System (TPS).
Origo is run by Annie Brox, who hails from Norway and whose family has been farming for generations.
Ms Brox has a history of working for the United Nations and a range of corporations.
It was only when she travelled to WA and met the Fulwood family at Cunderdin that her interest in agriculture technology and PA was piqued.
"They provided me with a spark to get involved in the agriculture technology sphere, providing critical data for farming systems," Ms Brox said.
She said the Origo.ag technology idea soon attracted the interest of other players in WA agriculture, including Brad Jones, Tammin, Rob Sewell, Wongan Hills, Stuart Smart and Donald Heitman, Mingenew, Bindi Murray, Katanning and Danny Sanderson, Grass Patch.
These growers, and many more, decided investment in making an Australian agriculture technology that was better fitted to agriculture and farming systems was a sound idea - and Origo was born.
It has now been eight years since the company started operations in agriculture, initially importing systems from overseas before deciding to design and develop the Origo.ag Agri technology platform domestically.
There are 15 permanent staff members and another 10-40 are employed when production peaks at certain times of the year.
Ms Brox said one of the Origo.ag successes had been Origo.ag weather stations and networks that provided key information about rainfall amounts, wind speeds, soil moisture and frost/temperature inversion conditions.
She said this was systematically deployed throughout a region in a grid pattern, with one XPS weather station every five kilometres - depending on the area.
"It is not just a weather station, but a key in measuring a crucial range of farming conditions, such as rainfall patterns" Mr Brox said.
"Our products are complete and ready and easy to install, maintain and service."
She said when planning to use agriculture technology like this, it was integral to look at the shape and size of farm management units in paddocks, as well as how producers would use the data in their farming system.
"To fully monitor local conditions, consider hills and valleys that influence local climate conditions," Ms Brox said.
"Draw a grid over your farm management units, with 5-10km sized cells - or larger cells in an open landscape.
"Typically, one weather station in each cross-section of the grid will provide information about variations that can be used, such as fertiliser prescriptions, sowing rates and harvest yields.
"With smaller farms of less than 3000-4000 hectares, it is recommended to cooperate with neighbours or members of a grower group to create the grid."
Ms Brox said knowledge was key and it was best for farmers to prioritise what they wanted to see for their farming system, such as:
Ms Brox said establishing management zones with relatively similar soil conditions was essential when using soil moisture probes appropriately.
She said rainfall variability data was required before soil moisture information was used, as this was the primary factor in soil moisture.
"You can use soil moisture probes as an indication of plant water usage and resulting changes throughout the season," Ms Brox said.
The other half of our Origo.ag product portfolio provides farmers with the tools to remotely monitor and remotely control assets and inputs, such as across farming operations and systems.
Examples include water management, mainly in livestock farming systems.
Ms Brox said, compared to other products, Origo.ag focused on monitoring so farmers can remotely control and automate assets and not just see the status or level.
She said examples included remote control and automation of diesel pumps, desalination plants, mains powered pumps, solar-powered pumps and generators.
"Monitoring and control in cropping systems is mainly monitoring and controlling water resources," Ms Brox said.
"For instance, remotely turning off mains water if you have a leak, fuel monitoring, fertiliser tank monitoring, grain bins and dryers.
"Location, volume and the planned storage period are essential factors."
Ms Brox said remote control and automation resources, such as water tanks and troughs, scheme water and systems such as desalination plants, could also be automated and remotely controlled using Origo technology.
"One of the important features of the Origo.ag products is that the update frequency of the information is up to every 5-10 minutes, so you know that any information you look at is up-to-date and that our farmers can act on issues when they happen," she said.
"This is for everything from weather conditions to the status of a pump, turning off a pump, or shutting off a valve.
"The benefits of this type of system include getting alerts for water leaks and having the ability to remotely shut off pumps and/or the water supply.
"This is very advantageous for livestock producers."
There are currently two connectivity options for the Origo.ag products, with satellite connectivity to be added within months.
The M1 option uses a Telco IoT network, which includes a SIM data plan for each device.
The DM Option is a private Origo.ag Digimesh meshing network that requires an Origo XGW Gateway at a central point with internet access, for example, at the farm office.
The SAT is a satellite option that provides connectivity anywhere for very remote singular devices, with a lower update frequency.
Ms Brox said all connectivity options could be mixed and matched, depending on farm requirements and what was cost-efficient.
She said Origo provided the service agreements for all equipment, so there was good back-up support.
"We have an operations centre system, and our operations centre staff get alerts and messages, and are alerting Origo.ag service partners.
"Customers can see any problems with installed products anywhere - and the local service partners across Australia who can install, maintain and troubleshoot problems," Ms Brox said.
"We are proud that the Origo.ag Products and Platform, and our brand are now being recognised and trusted by many across Australia.
"Origo products are now installed on properties that cover more than six million hectares of farmland in Australia after a three-fold growth in sales in the past year alone.
"As we are a manufacturer, we are now depending on building our distributors and service partners across Australia.
"We already have a range of resellers and service partners, but are looking to increase this network in the coming year - especially on the east coast.
"Farmers know we are reliable and, if something breaks, we can fix things fast and without breaking the bank."
Ms Brox said broadacre croppers across Australia were by far the biggest customers of Origo products, but these were increasingly being used by livestock producers, in sheep and cattle feedlots and in piggeries.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.