Cumulocity IoT and Powertec: Making a difference for farmers

Farming fields from birds-eye view

Powertec Telecommunications is excited to announce it has partnered with Cumulocity IoT to continue to deliver innovative IoT projects in the agricultural market.

Powertec Telecommunications delivers solutions to individuals and businesses worldwide that help them stay connected. From its founding in 1995, as a one-man team on the Gold Coast, the company has grown into an international operation with offices across Australia and New Zealand.

Farms in Australia are big – very big. The average farm size is around 100,000 acres, or 150 square miles, with almost a billion acres being farmed in total, according to the Australian Farm Institute. The bulk of Australia’s population (80%) centres around the coastline and capital cities, leaving a sparsely populated landscape otherwise, which includes agricultural land. A lack of Internet connectivity in these areas limits farmers’ ability to adopt the latest technological developments, many of which can help them protect their crops and herds.

The bigger the farms are, the more remote they can be. So, it almost goes without saying that internet access and communications are a challenge. The smallest undiscovered problem can create major issues with crops or herds. This is where the communications service provider Powertec gets creative. Powertec works closely with farmers to make a difference in their lives – by ensuring that they are connected and can communicate, no matter where they may be.

Ran McDonald, National Customer Engagement Manager, said: “If a pump fails, a farmer can lose 2,000 head of cattle. We want to stop that from happening. If we can eliminate their problems, they can have a better life.”

“Most IoT projects are dismal failures. They use platforms that are limping along, displaying a few dials. After we found Cumulocity IoT, with its rich features, we could offer farmers a shrink-wrapped solution that enhances their productivity, increases their ROI and makes their lives easier,” says Ran.

IoT to the rescue

Although Powertec has been involved in the machine-to-machine distribution business for about ten years, it really charged into the Internet of Things market about two years ago while on various visits to farming customers. The farms had disparate devices and platforms, along with major connectivity issues and were not sure IoT was worth the investment.

Their weather stations, liquid sensors, soil probes, pump monitors were glued together with unreliable and incompatible solutions. Broadband and Wi-Fi at the farmhouse often tied to a satellite in the fields; data costs were high, and reliability was low.

So Powertec invented a connectivity module – a device that “connects to everything and can pick up anything, anywhere,” said Ran McDonald.

This solved their immediate concerns about connectivity, but the farmers wanted more. They wanted better insights from the data that was coming from their sensors, to give them more control over conditions across the farm.

Ran McDonald referred to a project involving a 1 million-acre farm which had invested in several disparate IoT platforms. The platforms were for monitoring data from sensors on solar pumps, liquid sensors and weather stations.

“They either worked occasionally or not at all,” said Ran McDonald. “The farm had a full-time runner whose job was to drive around to all of the solar pumps and make sure they were working. It was a full-time job!”

Powertec installed LoRaWAN and connected the existing devices so that they “talked” to each other. Then it rolled out new devices and a single platform that offered a holistic view of all the farm’s devices – from water monitoring soil acidity level in the soil, weather including microclimates and wind levels.

In the case of the water pumps, the farm now receives alerts if the pumps are working or not – and can send the runner out only if one needs attention. The farm saved the runner five days’ effort, leaving him/her to attend to other important, more hands-on things!

India calls

Often industries don’t yet know what they can do with the IoT. So, when Powertec was demonstrating at an IoT festival in Melbourne recently, they gave a soon-to-be customer from India a pleasant surprise.

“They were using a pretty basic platform, and when they saw ours they could not believe the richness. It’s not just a simple dashboard, there are so many uses. It was wildly beyond their imaginations,” said Ran Mcdonald.

Powertec is now working with the Indian farm to remotely configure its IoT sensors. The company, which grows tea, was looking for new ways to increase its productivity. “It had outdated processes and issues with its crops,” said Ran McDonald.

In India, a farm can lose 30% of its yield just by over- or under-watering. So, the farm installed moisture sensors in three different fields – the driest one, the wettest one and one that is in between. “That’s the benchmark the field that is in between,” said Ran McDonald, “The other fields can vary by 45% either way.”

If the field is too wet, the sensor will alert the farmer – who can then apply more fertiliser to keep the crops fed, increasing the yield by 25-30%. If the dry field is too dry, he can irrigate it.

Ran McDonald said that Powertec chose Cumulocity IoT as its platform because of its out-of-the-box capabilities, plus its customisation options, to easily build a package simple enough for its dealers to propagate – with Powertec’s assistance.

Powertec believes in the agricultural industry and that farmers are the salt-of-the-earth – helping them is an important part of its business strategy. It is also important to Software AG, which is why we strive to offer easy-to-use, planet-saving solutions from Cumulocity IoT.

“We wanted to partner with someone good… With Cumulocity IoT, we have a partnership with the biggest and most trusted vendor in the world!” said Ran McDonald.


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