Merredin research facility digital upgrade gets green light

DPIRD research officer John Paul Collins examines a new automated weather station at the Katanning Research Facility, installed as part of the departments ag-tech upgrade.
DPIRD research officer John Paul Collins examines a new automated weather station at the Katanning Research Facility, installed as part of the departments ag-tech upgrade.

The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development's Merredin research facility will highlight the ways in which technology is being used in farming businesses as part of technology upgrades.

The department's Katanning and Merredin sites are currently being upgraded with the latest digital connectivity and a range of Internet of Things (IoT) applications, which are becoming synonymous with modern farm business operation.

National Narrowband Network Company (NNNCo) has been appointed as the successful contractor to install the long range/low power wide area network and IoT devices, as well as provide training and ongoing monitoring.

Department research officer John Paul Collins said the research facilities would effectively become digital demonstration sites to explore and develop ag-tech opportunities and advances.

"The upgrade will enable the department to 'ground truth' the use of IoT applications, including a range of sensors for water and fuel tanks, grain silos, gates and irrigation control, as well as sheep and personal GPS trackers and automated weather stations," he said.

"This will allow Western Australian agribusinesses to 'try before they buy' and to evaluate which technologies are best suited to their operation."

The investment is also expected to contribute towards improvements in the department's grains and livestock research projects.

Mr Collins said agricultural technology, known as ag-tech, was regarded as the next leap in agricultural evolution, providing data-driven solutions and remote monitoring to boost productivity.

The department has been exploring a range of IoT innovations, many of which were featured in its interactive display at the Southern DIRT Techspo earlier this year at the Katanning Research Facility.

"Prior to the event a range of sensors were installed around the property, including instruments for dust, security, water tanks and gates, as well as an automated weather station," Mr Collins said.

"We had a great response from the Techspo visitors to the display, who were able to see how the sensors could be tailored to their needs and projected onto the department's digital dashboard."