REMOTE monitoring of water tanks is nothing new for livestock producers but the uptake of many of these systems has been limited by either high cost, lack of coverage or limited battery life.
SA-based tech company Myriota believes it has come up with an economically viable solution which it is trialling on dozens of properties across Australia.
It has developed a satellite communications system where long battery life transmitters send small amounts of data at ultra low power levels via low earth orbit satellites.
The network of 20 centimetre by 20cm nano satellites travel at about 7.5 kilometres a second at an altitude of about 600km, enabling data to be transmitted from any location. This is then decoded by Myriota’s patented software.
Myriota business development executive Tom Rayner says its water tank monitoring units involve a transmitter with an off-the-shelf pressure sensor submerged into the tank, antennae and battery.
The company has also designed a simple phone app that farmers can check to see how full their tank is.
In the past couple of months, Myriota has deployed about 30 units on properties from the Kimberley in WA to the New England area of NSW, in a trial co-funded by the Australia and New Zealand CRC for Spatial Information.
The first two installed in SA were on tanks at The Gums Station, 45km east of Burra. Owner Tom Riggs says they are working well on the 20,000-hectare sheep station.
“They are a good tool to make water monitoring more efficient and achieve better management across the property,” he said.
“It might be that the day after we are out there on a water run something goes wrong and in summer you could find you have 10 dead sheep within a few days, so by knowing there is a problem it has just paid for itself.”
Mr Riggs says they hope to install the units on their furthest bores, which are up to 30km from the homestead.
He sees a huge advantage in the units being portable and being able to be moved within 10 minutes.
“The only downside I can see is there is no sensor on the trough but I think they are working on that too.”
Mr Rayner says the product is on-track to be commercially released in mid-2018.
The final cost is yet to be determined but he expects the monitors will retail for less than $1500, with ongoing data charges of less than $5 a month.
“The beauty of Myriota’s system is there is no need for any other infrastructure or towers or gateways to be installed,” he said.
“If a farmer can use zip-ties and a pair of pliers then they will be able to install our monitors and then they just need to log into the app.”
Tech start-up sees growth in ag sector
MYRIOTA is working on affordable monitoring systems in a wide range of industries from defence and maritime uses to asset tracking and logistics.
But business development executive Tom Rayner says agriculture is also a core focus due to the challenges farmers face accessing remote communications.
Ideas they are presently working on include connected rain gauges, soil moisture meters and water flow meters.
Mr Rayner says the most exciting potential application is a satellite connected livestock ear tag.
“There are a few companies doing great work around animal tracking and we hope to be able to provide the missing communications link in the not-too-distant future,” he said.
Myriota was formed in 2015 to commercialise technology developed during a $12-million research program at UniSA.
It is already picking up accolades, winning the 2017 SA New Business of the Year at the Telstra Business Awards, as well as best industrial start-up at the Internet of Things World 2017 conference in the United States.