Sundown Pastoral Company’s property, Keytah, Moree has continued on the path of innovation and technology uptake by installing their own internet network.
Beamed from town 30 kilometres away, the network installed in May this year ensures effective data speeds and reliable connection 24 hours a day, essential to the running of the 63,000 acre cropping operation.
Sundown’s owner David Statham said their decision to install the network came as a result of poor performance from other providers.
Within weeks of being connected to other networks, Mr Statham said it was clear that they were unresponsive, expensive and too slow.
Luckily for Keytah, Field Solutions was able to provide a network that met all the demands of the property and was a cost-effective solution.
“All the technologies we're looking at in farming, automation of irrigation systems, all require a internet service of some type,” Mr Statham said.
“Data is becoming more relevant in agriculture than ever before.
“We've got a trial site down here at the moment which we're looking to get WiFi to so we can open and shut all the gates remotely.
“The more and more we're looking to change the irrigation systems, the more and more relation there is to doing these things.”
While there are no plans to go 100 per cent automated like some properties in southern regions, Mr Statham said they will be upgrading various sections of the farm when they're due to be upgraded.
“I'm looking to WiFi a large percentage of the farm,” he said.
“We're looking at more and more ways to automate what we do.”
Mr Statham said this automation and widespread connectivity allows remote monitoring.
“We've got about 11 pump stations and we've got sensors on the motors, sensors on the channel we pump from,” he said.
“And all those sensors, the reliability of connectivity is important.
“We're looking to monitor all those sorts of things remotely.”
Mr Statham said another key consideration in implementing the new network was being attractive to potential staff, specifically young people with an inability to live without connection.
“You've got to look at the types of people that are coming into agriculture,” he said.
“What I'm looking to do is create an environment in the houses where it's free WiFi.
“They've got accommodation on farm plus free WiFi, well then I'm going to be in the top of the list of where they're going to come and work.”
Tailor-made planting straight to your iPad
Sundown Pastoral Company has custom-built three planters to better meet their needs and incorporate technology at Keytah, Moree.
Owner David Statham said the planters had been built to replace the four planters they used previously and were based on brand new technology.
“You can look at the planter daily, live on the internet.
“You can look at all the seeds that have gone in, and it tells you what percentage per hectare they planted at singulating, in other words, one seed going into the slot, and then there's double and then there's misses.
“And you can pull all of it up on a map, all on your iPad, live as the planters are planting.”
Mr Statham said he thinks it was one of the best investments he had ever made.
“I was able to plant the same area in the same time-frame as last year, but with three machines instead of four,” he said.
The move from four planters to three is due to the ability to plant more efficiently without sacrificing precision.
Keytah general farm manager Nick Gillingham said he worked closely with Precision Seed Solutions to build a planter that was tailored to their needs.
“I used many different parts from a number of suppliers to tailor a planter to my needs, basically taking the best bits from a number of suppliers,” he said.
Making a large investment like this requires a certain amount of prior research, and Mr Gillingham said they tried to cover all their bases before putting the machines together.
“I did a trial two years ago with Monsanto on the hydraulic down force and the speed tube which showed we could increase planting speed without jeopardising seed placement,” he said.
Mr Gillingham said the hydraulic down force, speed tube seed placement, air operated trash whippers, and bulk fill capabilities were just some of the many special features on these planters.
Mr Statham said while it was a costly venture, agriculture is a high risk, high reward industry.
“You've got to press the boundaries,” he said.