Digital connectivity boost in Western Australia helps farm productivity

Farms in Western Australia will soon be able to work easier with the installation of high-quality broadband.

One-million-dollars is being provided to the project in Kununurra and the Ord River Irrigation area.

Two adjacent networks will be deployed to cover more than 40 farm businesses over almost 1,700 square kilometres as part of the Digital Farm initiative to bridge the ‘digital divide’ in regional Western Australia.

The grants have been allocated to extend broadband access to areas that are not adequately serviced by the NBN fixed wireless and fixed line footprint.

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Agriculture and food minister Alannah MacTiernan said the new digital network will help to drive agricultural productivity and expansion in the Ord, and will provide existing growers with a competitive edge in a global market.

“This grant will initially provide coverage to around 40 businesses along the Ord – including large-scale, high-intensity horticultural properties – and we expect uptake will increase as the Ord continues to grow.

“Modern businesses – no matter where they are located – require a high-quality broadband service to be able to operate in an increasingly competitive global environment,” said MacTiernan.

“This program has responded to a dire need for digital connection in the regions and successfully attracted commercial investment to deliver broadband services to businesses and residents throughout our State.

“Regional businesses and residents will get to enjoy the benefits of a fast and reliable broadband service as the telecommunications infrastructure is installed,” she said.

The new network will provide a fast, reliable, digital service to agricultural businesses in Kununurra, the industrial area, and the southern and central parts of the Ord River farmland.

These are the final projects from the first round of Digital Farm Grants, worth a total of $5 million, providing access to affordable, scalable broadband to more than 1,240 enterprises across 41,000 square kilometres of the Kimberley, Mid-West, Wheatbelt, Peel, South-West and Great Southern regions.



Sheep counting app counts and records farmers’ stock numbers

Central West farmer Marian McGann is helping farmers sleep better at night by developing an app that counts and records their stock numbers while they’re out in the paddock.

Jobs for NSW New England Agtech cluster champion, Chris Celovic, said McGann received a $25,000 Minimum Viable Product grant from Jobs for NSW to develop the ‘stock keeper’ app and a synchronised web portal to manage livestock counts.

“This is a fantastic example of how Jobs for NSW is helping regional technology startups become high-growth businesses of the future,” said Celovic.

“Jobs for NSW is dedicated to supporting regional startups and scaleups with 30 per cent of its $190 million fund earmarked for regional entrepreneurs,” he said.

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McGann has a 2,000 hectare sheep farm with 7,000 fine wool ewes at Wyangala. She said she came up with the idea after an ordinary day in the sheep yard sparked a family discussion about the difficulties of getting an accurate sheep count.

“We had sheep stolen seven years ago and it nearly broke the farm. So I went home that night and decided to develop an app to solve the problem,” said McGann.

“Currently many farmers record livestock numbers in pocket notebooks, on pieces of paper, diaries or some other medium, and often when they need to review the history of stock numbers it is a very frustrating process,” she said.

“I designed an app that would keep records on livestock events and tallies and commissioned Appiwork at Bathurst to construct the app with a web portal. The app and synchronised web portal creates records on livestock activity – making it a powerful reporting and decision-making tool for the farmer,” said McGann.

“The app was launched in July and is quickly attracting users. It can work without mobile service – so it’s always ‘paddock friendly’ – and automatically synchronises with the web portal,” she said.

The Jobs for NSW and the NSW Government’s business connect service had been immensely helpful in getting the project off the ground, said McGann.

“The Jobs for NSW funding and support from business connect advisor Russell Meadley helped me turn an idea into something tangible.I am now in the process of marketing the app across NSW and Australia and I think it would have a huge application overseas. I would like to take it global,” she said.