According to a post on the NZTech blog, Spark is partnering with NIWA, Farmlands, and Ballance Agri-Nutrients to launch an Internet of Things pilot for farmers, starting with about 40 farms in the Matamata-Piako region, with a further 20 farms to be added in the South Island.
The blog post said the pilot had begun in April 2017 and will deliver connectivity to farms through an on-farm Wi-Fi mesh network, connected to the Internet via Spark’s 4G network and a low power wide area network based on LoRaWAN technology.
LoRaWAN is one of several new technologies designed for long range, low power low data rate IoT applications. KotahiNet is rolling out a LoRaWAN network in New Zealand and last September claimed coverage of more than half the population.
The main direct competitor to LoRaWAN is Sigfox, a proprietary technology already covering almost 90 percent of the New Zealand population.
There is much debate as to the relative merits, and likely market position of these and new cellular technologies Cat-M and NB-IoT designed for IoT that will be easy for cellular network operators to deploy.
According to the blog the pilot will demonstrate how farmers can get real-time information about their farm through an array of sensors enabling them to analyse the data in real time from multiple areas across the farm to support farm decisions.
The blog quoted NIWA manager of marketing and industry engagement, Dr Mark Bojesen-Trepka, saying “This will allow for more timely, proactive decisions around key farming operations like when to irrigate, fertilise, spray or harvest, meet environmental consent requirements and mitigate risks associated with New Zealand’s dynamic and occasionally extreme weather.”
The Connecting Farms pilot and the technology will be on show at Fieldays, New Zealand’s largest agricultural event, from 11- 17 June in Hamilton.