Growing the influence of the IoT down on the farm

Farmbot’s technology is turning the axiom that sustainability and productivity are at opposite ends of the spectrum by clearly demonstrating how they can be improved together.

Farmbot Monitoring Solutions is an Australian agritech company that harnesses the Internet of Things (IoT) in precision agriculture. The company monitors and reports on-farm water ecosystems, delivering real-time reporting on water trends, consumption and demand.

Established in Sydney in 2013, founder and COO Craig Hendricks – a software developer with a small farm in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales – developed a range of remote-monitoring devices to keep an eye on his cattle, water and fences while he was at his day job in Sydney. Since then, Farmbot has grown into a national company that has over 3300 monitors running on properties across Australia, including leading livestock operations such as AACo, CPC and Kidman Pastoral.

Andrew Coppin, the company’s managing director, has always been a passionate advocate for the better use of technology in agribusiness to improve productivity, sustainability and profitability. After an extensive executive career in capital markets and funds management, he has spent the last five years in the agritech sector mentoring emerging technology companies as an investor, adviser and company director. As well as his role at Farmbot, Andrew is also a founding director of the Australian AgriTech Association, an industry body that seeks to further Australian agritech companies and support their growth.

Farmbot levearges state-of-the-art IoT monitors alongside advanced software, algorithms and satellites to monitor on-farm assets and resources such as water levels, rainfall, temperature, water quality, electric fences, pumps and other metrics that provide greater security and peace of mind to farmers around the country

“At any given time, there are probably about 10,000 farmers driving around their properties checking on their water,” Andew explains. “That’s 10,000 vehicles driving and producing carbon emissions and 10,000 other jobs around the farm not being done.”

By providing a real-time look at a farmer’s water ecosystem, Farmbot immediately alerts them to anything that has gone wrong with their water (e,g a broken pump or leaking tank).

“Instead of driving around in the morning looking at water, farmers can check on their water via their smartphone while having breakfast with their family,” Andrew enthuses.

While technology underpins what Faembot achieves, Andrew believes it’s the team’s attitude to technology that has led to their success and growth to date.

“Many technology companies fail because they attempt to solve a problem that doesn’t exist, or they push technology developed overseas into an Australian market and climate where it is not fit for purpose,” Andrew says. “All our research and development is undertaken at our Sydney research facilities or on Australian farms with real-life farmers and problems.”

From a sustainability perspective, Farmbot’s technology negates the need for farmers to spend their days driving to check water sources. For large farms this could mean a reduction in thousands of kilometres of driving per week, in turn creating a positive impact with a reduction in carbon emissions, wear and tear on vehicles, infrastructure and material reduction in occupational health and safety risks.

“In agriculture, and for that matter many other industries, sustainability and productivity are seen at opposite ends of a spectrum,” Andrew bemoans. “But this technology is a clear example of how sustainability and productivity can be improved together.”

Farmbot’s progress has not gone unnoticed, with the company announced in September as winner of the ‘Sustainability, CleanTech, Agtech’ category at the inaugural Technology Scale-Up Awards.

“2021 has been a big year for us as we have continued to grow our headcount and customer base domestically, and next year will be even bigger as we look to international expansion,” Andrew enthuses.

This article first appeared in issue 34 of the Inside Small Business quarterly magazine