Digital agriculture programs

The centrepiece of Agriculture Victoria’s commitment to support the on-farm adoption of digital technology is Victoria’s On-Farm Internet of Things Trial.

About the Victoria’s On-Farm Internet of Things trial

The trial is part of the Victorian Government’s $45 million Connecting Victoria initiative to improve digital technology and infrastructure across regional Victoria.

The $12 million On-Farm Internet of Things (IoT) Trial is supporting on-farm adoption of IoT technologies by addressing barriers to uptake, including:

  • Lack of connectivity
  • Digital literacy
  • Capital to invest in on-farm IoT technologies
  • Demonstrating the value of shared data

The trial will run for approximately 2 years from 2020 – 2022. Applications are now closed.

Participant industries and regions

Dairy, sheep, horticulture and cropping were selected as four important representative industries for Victoria’s agricultural sector. Selection of these industries allowed a broad range of IoT technologies to be tested across a diverse cross section of Victorian farms and across different topographical and climatic areas.

Agriculture Victoria has partnered with over 300 farms to trial on-farm IoT technology and will evaluate the impact these technologies can have on farm performance.

The trial is taking place across five local government areas:

  • Wellington Shire
  • Buloke Shire
  • Loddon Shire
  • Moira Shire
  • City of Greater Shepparton.

IoT farm locations, Buloke Shire, Moira  Shire, Loddon Shire, Wellington Shire, Greater Shepparton Shire

What has the trial achieved?

Hear directly from our farmers on how participating in the trial and adopting technology has benefited them.

  • Sam Sorrenti, horticulture, Cobram
  • Tim and Susan Lockhart, sheep and cropping, Berrimal
  • Neil and Sue Davis, cropping, Birchip

Video title: Victoria’s On-Farm Internet of Things Trial: Sam Sorrenti, horticulture, Cobram

Mark Sloan - Agriculture Victoria Industry Technology Coordinator

Today, we're here at Sam Sorrenti's orchard just outside of Cobram in Northern Victoria. Sam was one of the first farmers to participate in the Victoria On-Farm Internet of Things Trial. Since about October last year, Sam's been collecting data from 24 soil moisture probes scattered throughout his two properties, covering approximately 40 hectares. The soil moisture probes that Sam had installed used the LoRaWAN network to communicate data.

Sam Sorrenti - Sorrenti Fresh - Cobram

My name's Sam Sorrenti. I live in Cobram, was born in Cobram. We grow peaches and nectarines on the outskirts of Cobram township. We have two orchards, one's 18 hectares, the other one is 20 hectares and we mainly grow stone fruit for supermarkets, local market and export. A motivation for the IoT Trial was first of all, it's new technology which you want to be on the cutting edge of new technology, whatever's out there. We needed to do something for soil moisture monitoring.

On the home block we have an old system of knocker sprinklers. I'm pretty much up to speed with the irrigation procedure and how it works. And we have tensiometers in the ground. On the new farm we went to an upgraded system of micro sprinklers. So we were struggling with soil and moisture, reading it and working out correct water application. So when this trial was introduced we thought this is perfect for us to do soil and moisture monitoring and hopefully get more effective use out of our water and get better results.

The improvements we've noticed so far is the duration of irrigation, We've seem to modified a bit. We don't seem to be watering as long as we used to. We're probably watering a little bit less, with closer increments, trying to reduce runoff and trying at the same time get the maximum out of, out of our trees, but without watering past the root zone and without not putting enough water on. So, so far with the technology the biggest challenge is becoming comfortable with it, understanding it and trusting it. Because this is new technology. It's not new, like state of art, There's been soil and moisture devices out there before but everything new you gotta get used to and then building up a database. So without the database you can't accurately assess what you've done. So history is a big part of what you're gonna do in the future. So, the biggest challenge probably is accepting the data Understanding the data and, and trusting the data probably.

And then having a more, bigger picture of what you're doing. Still need a bit of gut feel when it comes to this sort of thing, You just can't wholly and solely rely on the data. But now with the data we got in place we're a lot more comfortable with it and trust it a lot more. When the harvest is on, when we are in that rapid growth stage of the fruit, we'll look at it every day, every second day. If, if we get a hot spell of hot wind and hot weather well then we'll look at it more regularly. As far as the technology and all that is concerned, There's two ways you can handle it, You can either push it to the side or you can embrace it. And I think the future of farming is to embrace the technology. Cause, it can only make your job easier, make your job more efficient, and make your life a lot easier. So if the technology's there and it suits your operation, go for it. Once you start using it and start, accept it, you soon learn it. And then when you use it every day becomes part of your business. It's part of our life, I think. Yeah, we love it. Yeah.

Mark Sloan

So there's some of the things Sam has learned through the Internet of Things Trail. in particular he's been able to take data, being collected in real time, and make accurate decisions around watering processes.

Text on screen: For more information about Agriculture Victoria and technology on Victorian farms, please visit agriculture.vic.gov.au/AgTech

Video title: Victoria’s On-Farm Internet of Things Trial: Tim and Susan Lockhart, sheep and cropping, Berrimal

Mark Sloan - Agriculture Victoria Industry Technology Coordinator

Hi, today we're in Berrimal at the farm of Tim and Susie Lockhart. Tim and Susie participated in the second round of the Internet of Things Trial. They were interested to see what the benefits connected technology could bring to their farm business. In this video we'll investigate their journey so far. We hope you find it informative.

Tim and Susan Lockhart Sheep and Cropping Farmers - Berrimal

I'm Susan Lockhart, and I'm here at Berrimal. This is my husband.

Tim, yeah, I'm Tim Lockhart. We're 20 K's west of Wedderburn, in between St. Arnaud and Charlton, as well. We run sheep for wool production and mostly meat and lambs and we also crop canola, wheat, barley, and occasionally lupins.

The internet devices that we had installed was the weather stations which we decided on the four weather stations, giving us the wind and rain and conditions straight to our phone, which is terrific. And then a moisture probe, which is out on a farm of ours 20 kilometers or 30 kilometers from here, so that helps us. We went for the AG Cloud which is security around the property.

We also went with a security tag that's buried in the driveway, so that obviously sends a signal to our phone to say that someone's potentially coming in and look, 95, 99% of them will be innocent. And it's just that off-chance that we've got someone untoward on the property and we can at least get a picture of their plate which is gonna make their job a lot harder than it potentially was. It was mostly the advice from the agronomists on things that could potentially help us and that's where the weather stations came into it. Just to be able to look at your phone we can just check the weather on a number of locations and see the variance in it and also see what the conditions are like out there for whatever we're planning to do, whether it's spraying or harvesting. And then there's also the moisture probe, which is a very new thing to me, but interested in how that can help us make decisions in the future on fertilizer, etc.

The time saving. I find Tim's pretty time-poor so, hopefully, the less travel, checking weather conditions before spraying, spreading urea, all those sorts of things when it comes to ordering and, hopefully, it gives us more quality time. The LoRaWAN network for us, for our operations now, it's allowing us to get notifications, or read our weathers stations which is a really positive thing. In the future it's gonna be great for our sons, coming home on the farm with new technology. It's gonna keep them interested. They've done ag training at Longerenong College and hopefully they're ahead of the times with all futures and they'll be able to connect with the other farmers that are probably doing the same. This will keep them connected with what's available in the future, with technology I hope and help them. We've had some unexpected benefits with the wifi bridge that was installed with the security system, unbeknownst to us we now have this extra wifi on the property that is gonna be of huge benefit to us, the farmers, our shearers, when they come to stay.

Yeah, well, the benefits that being involved in the trial and that they can potentially bring are something that we probably had our head in the sand a little bit with. I mean, being involved in the trial has forced us to see what's out there and see what's available. And I suppose it was talking with our agronomists to point out what could be of benefit to us and that's probably fast-tracked our quest for a bit more knowledge and technology. I think I would suggest to them to find out about it and see what, potentially, can suit their farm, or fit their farm, and anything that can save you time and let you do other things is definitely gonna be a big positive.

Look, I would say that it's worth investigating. I can only think of the situation where a husband and wife can be away having a trip away and they have no idea what the weather's doing at home, but the husband says we have to get home for either shearing, we have to get home for spraying tomorrow. We've got to do these jobs because we have to but then when you find out that the weather is not appropriate for those jobs you had planned you just might get that extra night away. I mean, that's a positive. I find that a huge benefit so, yeah, go for it.

Text on screen: For more information about Agriculture Victoria and technology on Victorian farms, please visit agriculture.vic.gov.au/AgTech

Video title: Victoria’s On-Farm Internet of Things Trial: Neil and Sue Davis, cropping, Birchip

Mark Sloan - Agriculture Victoria Industry Technology Coordinator

Today, we're at the property of Neil and Sue Davis, south of Birchip, here in the Southern Mallee. On their 1500 hectare farm they run a mainly cropping operation. And today we're gonna look at their journey through the internet of things trial and in particular the types of devices they've connected to the LoRaWAN network.

Neil and Sue Davis - Cropping farmers - Birchip

We're Neil and Sue Davis. We farm on 1500 hectares of heavy soils, 10 K's south of Birchip at Morton Plains. So we're on the flat Birchip Plains country. We're currently growing main crop, crops probably canola, wheat, lentils, and a little bit of barley. On the farm now we've got four rain gauges working on LoRaWAN. We've got one weather station working on LoRaWAN. We've got another weather station, which incorporates a temperature inversion tower. It's actually working on the 4G network. We've got two security monitoring systems on two shed locations and that is working off 4G. We've got a LoRaWAN gateway on the property. So the coverage from the LoRaWAN is quite good. The temperature inversion tower has been yeah, fairly useful. It's certainly saying that there is inversion situations when I was pretty sure there wasn't. It's going to change our spray timing, probably markedly into the future. As far as the trial went, I think we were, we were really surprised how involved we became with connectivity and the benefits that flowed from it, which we really didn't expect. Certainly a challenge getting our heads around the range of products available and the connectivity, especially LoRaWAN took a lot of getting, getting to grips with what actually what it was and how it was gonna work. Yeah. But a very enjoyable process, isn't it?

It is. Farmers looking at installing IoT devices, I suggest you talk to your neighbors and see how beneficial that is. You really have to do a lot of research to see what's available and and apply it to your farm. And certainly it's been very helpful to us as far as peace of mind and current rainfall and just having information at your fingertips. The exciting thing about information technology is that it really does make your life a lot easier and you have a lot more information at your fingertips. Yeah, it is interesting and you use it far more than you think you would really, every five minutes you're on the phone wondering what the wind speed's like or what the temperature's like. How much rain you've had and you do, you use it a lot.

Look, ag tech is, yeah, takes a bit of keeping on top of. If you look at sprayer cameras and things like that. Yeah, it takes a bit of getting your head around what's gonna be useful and where the price point is, yeah. So it is a bit of a challenge, especially for older folks to get a grasp of ag tech developments and fit 'em into your operation.

I can see that it's gonna make life a lot easier for farmers and we don't run livestock, but there is a lot of applications there for livestock farmers and that they could make use of. It's moving really quickly. And you really do have to look into it, study it, be interested and just to keep up with what's available.

I think we spent 23,000, was the cost of the installation. And I think that's money pretty well spent.

If we see something that would be beneficial, we would go ahead and install it.

Text on screen: For more information about Agriculture Victoria and technology on Victorian farms, please visit agriculture.vic.gov.au/AgTech.

IoT network connectivity

Access to reliable network coverage was identified as a key barrier to farmers adopting digital technology on-farm.

Through the trial, Agriculture Victoria has addressed this barrier and partnered with the National Narrowband Network Co. (NNNCo) to deliver IoT network connectivity to the trial regions. NNNCo has delivered LoRaWAN (long range wide area network) to support the deployment of IoT apps and devices on farms taking part in the trial.

Network being delivered will not only benefit farmers taking part in the trial – it will also provide broader opportunities for digital uptake across the regions where the trial is taking place. Please visit the NNNCo site to discover the full extent of network coverage delivered under the trial and for further information on LoRaWAN technology.

Improving digital literacy

During preparations for the trial, Agriculture Victoria spoke to farmers and industry leaders about their experiences with digital technology. Many farmers felt that they had not had opportunities to learn about digital technology and how to reliably use it, and that this was preventing them from adopting digital technology on their farm.

The trial provided farmers with the opportunity to learn about technology that exists in the market today and how these technologies could benefit their farming businesses.

In addition, Agriculture Victoria appointed a dedicated team of Industry Technology Coordinators to support farmers taking part in the On-Farm IoT Trial. Agriculture Victoria’s Industry Technology Coordinators have expertise in digital technology and provided specialised support to farmers throughout the trial. This included helping farmers navigate the complex AgTech ecosystem and organising a series of educational workshops to help farmers select from the range of apps and devices available under the trial.

Please see a sample list of devices that were available to farmers on the trial:

Demonstrating the value of shared data

The On-Farm IoT Trial is an opportunity for the department to work with participating farmers to explore the benefits, knowledge, and innovation opportunities of sharing data with the aim to maximise the value of IoT beyond the individual farm level. Agriculture Victoria has developed a Data Lake to explore this opportunity.

The On-Farm IoT Trial Data Lake is a secure online data repository that combines data storage, data governance and analytics in a single platform. It will be used to store and manage data generated from apps and devices over the course of the On-Farm IoT Trial.

The principle of creating a shared data resource through the trial is to create an open resource for innovation and to help progress some of the many opportunities associated with data sharing for the broader sector, not to constrain or lock data away. In doing so, the department will ensure that data is protected.

This will ensure that the On-Farm IoT Trial not only benefits participating farmers, but also has broader value to Victoria’s agriculture and agtech sectors through the creation of a secure shared data resource.

If you have questions or ideas regarding the shared use of IoT trial data please contact ag.iot@djpr.vic.gov.au.

Other programs

Digital Agriculture Investment scheme

Based on learnings from the trial, Agriculture Victoria developed the Digital Agriculture Investment Scheme to further support farm businesses invest in technology.

Page last updated: 25 May 2022