Innovative farming with Stirlings to Coast Farmers
The digital backbone of Australia, the nbn network is constantly evolving as we help to keep communities, businesses and all areas of society connected, and our nation productive.
And, in the regions, our focus is sharper than ever.
That’s so we can ensure those living and working in regional, rural and remote locations can access the crucial tools and services that support everyday needs in a fast-changing digital world.
Like grower group, Stirlings to Coast Farmers, and its members.
Based in Albany, Western Australia (Menang Noongar Country), Stirlings to Coast Farmers supports the local agricultural industry by ‘delivering credible, relevant research and information’.
With help from its Innovate with nbn Grants Program win, the member based, farmer led group is now set to make an even greater impact.
“We're a grower group, which basically means we deal directly with farmers, and extend research and information technology equipment onto farms,” says Philip Honey, Smart Farm Coordinator at Stirlings to Coast Farmers.
The seed for the group was sown in 2009, established to focus on improving farm productivity for members in a sustainable way.
Fast forward to today and more than 85 farming businesses – totalling more than 200 farmers and their families – currently make up the membership, relying on Stirlings to Coast Farmers to help maximise their productivity.
“Our membership covers roughly 400,000 hectares in the high rainfall zone,” says Philip.
“So, a lot of crops grown with canola, wheat, barley, some livestock with cattle and sheep … ultimately, we want to help make farming sustainable or continue to be sustainable, and help deliver productivity gains to our members.”
It’s this purpose – and the goods to back it up – that saw Stirlings to Coast Farmers win the 2021 Innovate with nbn Grants Program for the Agriculture category.
Innovate with nbn Grants Program
Encouraging businesses from regional areas with their technology-led ideas, the Innovate with nbn Grants Program awarded $10,000 to innovative businesses enabled by the nbn network.#
Run in partnership with the Regional Australia Institute, across seven categories – Agriculture, Arts, Education, Health, Indigenous Business, Tourism, and Women in Regional Business – the awards aim to facilitate and support further growth.
Innovating to overcome challenges
“Over the last couple of years, climate variability has been a bit of a concern down in our membership zone,” says Philip.
“So, we’ve deployed quite a range of agtech equipment – from rain gauges through to weather stations and soil moisture probes.”
These internet-connected devices collect real-time data to help members make more informed business decisions for potential benefits including improved yield and productivity.
In the past two years, Stirlings to Coast Farmers has deployed 70 weather and soil moisture monitoring devices.
One of their biggest challenges, though, says Philip was interoperability: “Systems talking to other systems and having data in one spot”.
That’s why the group is working on creating a much-needed market solution where it can bring all the data collected, across different sensor types and brands, into one centralised platform.
It’s something Stirlings to Coast Farmers identified can be helped by its Innovate with nbn Grants Program win.
“We are looking to utilise that money to bring all our data into one spot, and then that makes it a lot easier for our members to access.”
A centralised location where data can be visualised, stored and used for machine learning practises, including delivering highly accurate weather forecasts, right down to the farm level.
“Ultimately, it enables our members to access data anywhere.”
The future of farming
When it comes to the agricultural industry making the most of connectivity, Philip believes even more innovation is on the horizon, predicting autonomy and robotics to be the next farming phase.
“It's exciting. Look, we've got labour issues throughout the whole membership, throughout the whole nation.
“Being able to use swarm sort of machines or even [unmanned aerial vehicles] (UAVs) collecting weeds or, you know, crop health imagery in real time, processing it and making a decision from the office will ultimately lead to a better quality of life.”