Since 1979 Computer Merchants have been creating the perfect blend of innovation and proven business results to plan, design, and implement solutions that are based on our customers’ unique situations and ambitions. We partner with a broad array of the top IT vendors from around the world to bring solutions to customer problems.

Computer Merchants has developed a reputation for early engagement with customers working on very complex issues. Recently we were engaged with a company solving some very unique IT problems around big data – a subject close to our heart.

EcoThought has existed for 11 years and is the brainchild of Slade Beard and his partner Marjolein Beard. An Australian owned company, they specialise in the analysis and design of sustainable human systems based on the integration of technology to meet human needs. This results in the creation of environments which are sustainable, not only in terms of their environmental impact, but also in terms of their ability to sustain comfortable human life.

The EcoThought Farm

The EcoThought Farm was established as a testbed for the development and testing of technologies to support the creation of smart farms, which reduce farm input costs. Consider the costs of running very large properties in remote areas (a million-acre property is not uncommon in a country as large and empty as Australia). Imagine the logistics of running stock on such a property; for example, it would take one week to check each water trough just once.

The costs of labour, fertiliser, feed, and stock on properties of this scale are driving farmers out of business. Large properties are being carved up into hobby farms that are not producing much of anything.

EcoThought is developing technologies that will allow the reintroduction of agriculture to traditional properties. Broadly speaking, these technologies enable low-cost automation – essentially, an Internet of Things (IoT) integrated farming operation.

EcoThought is testing battery-powered devices (sensors) which can measure various environments and communicate the condition to the remote homestead using a LoRaWAN networking protocol, in which gateways relay messages between end-devices and a central network server.

LoRaWAN is a Low Power, Wide Area (LPWA) networking protocol designed to wirelessly connect these ‘things’ to the internet in regional, national, or global networks; and targets key IoT requirements such as bi-directional communication, end-to-end security, mobility, and localization services.

Imagine our previously mentioned million-acre property where it takes a whole week to inspect each water trough just once. Now introduce sensors that detect the water level of every trough and wirelessly communicate the values to a remote homestead using (low) battery power.

Adding more sensors, perhaps to monitor water quality in the trough, or take a photograph in case something has fallen into the trough that might pollute or poison the water; sensors that detect whether farm gates are open or closed, sensors that turn sprinkler systems off and on and measure the water flow; sensors that measure the water consumption against an allowance, perhaps even ground sensors that measure the moisture level, and weather stations that report on rain, wind, and temperature.

All this is possible; driving down much of the cost of running very large properties, possibly returning them to profitability and therefore financial viability and sustainability. The sensors simply communicate with the homestead server via gateway devices. There, data is analysed and even consolidated with data from other properties.

LoRaWAN characteristics include long-range, bi-directional communications, low data rate, and low cost; It is ideal for IoT applications and industrial automation of low-power, battery-operated sensors.

More than just Agriculture

In looking at EcoThought’s Farm, one can easily see extending the principles to other applications – it’s not hard to see the concepts expressed here applied to industrial sites, large shopping centres, or mining operations. EcoThought is on the threshold of revolutionising large-scale agriculture, perhaps the same technology can revolutionise your business?

Computer Merchants works with EcoThought and supplies them with software, servers and networking infrastructure such as gateways. Want to see how we can help you? Contact Computer Merchants to discuss our solutions.


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