Murchison House Station is one of the oldest pastoral stations in Western Australia, but at the recent Livestock Technology Field Day, owners Calum and Belinda Carruth demonstrated how full connectivity and agriculture technology has brought the Kalbarri property into the future.
The Carruths run beef cattle and rangeland goats at the Station, which covers 350,000 acres, including the ancient limestone Toolonga escarpment, a 150-million-year-old former coral reef that rises 180m above sea level and forms the ‘backbone’ of the station. There is also 60km of wild Indian Ocean shoreline, and more than 30km of Murchison River floodplains.
The terrain is rugged, spectacular and varied, and is a drawcard for tourists and palaeontologists alike, who are accommodated on the property between April and October each year. What it’s not, however, is ‘digital friendly’.
To overcome this, the Carruths partnered with ag-tech company Origo.farm – with backing from Meat and Livestock Australia Donor Company (MDC) – to achieve full connectivity across the entire station.
And now that they are connected they want to help spread the word and help other stations get connected, which was the main theme of the Livestock Technology Field Day.
The begin the day national representatives from Meat and Livestock Australia provided the introduction and set the scene for a relaxed day learning about all things innovative.
This was followed by a short introduction from Annie Brox of Origo.Farm as she discussed the work that they had been doing with the Carruths.
Next up, the 30 plus eager participants then piled into four wheel drives and headed off to explore what was taking place at the Station.
During this convoy there were many examples being used and investigated on the Station to reduce the time, labour and cost of everyday livestock and station maintenance activities. But one of particular interest was related to water facilities that are used to monitor and maintain water supplies.
These water facilities use ultrasonic sensors in the tanks and wells to pick up the water level and when the water at these points is too low, the sensor sends a message alert to a mobile phone.
This means the Carruths now get a text message when the water is low and can opt to turn on the pump and start topping up these watering points.
NACC’s Regional Agriculture Landcare Facilitators Annabelle Garratt attended the field day and said technology in our agriculture systems has come a very long way, which has improved the efficiency of many everyday activities and has led to the reduction in cost, time and our environmental and carbon footprint.
“The implementation of a range of technology systems at Murchison House Station are all perfect examples of the many benefits that can be sought from the use of technology to make farming more sustainable.”
“The day also highlighted for me just how far industry has come in regards to animal welfare and husbandry, efficiency, and environmental management, with technology to thank for many of the improvements.”
Some great tips about getting connected can be found below (source www.mla.com.au)
Calum’s lessons learned so far
• We have hard water. Scale build-up will affect flow meters, so we may need a filtration system.
• We initially planned to use Wi-Fi transmitters but they weren’t up to it. We’re now using a 900MHz meshing radio system, which is much better at covering the broken limestone landscape.
• Things we will need to watch: salt air affecting components; cattle rubbing on weather stations; galahs and parrots chewing cables; birds nesting in towers.
• Apart from Origo.farm’s Intellectual Property (electronics and software system), everything is off-the-shelf and easily sourced from local hardware and irrigation stores.
• Existing hardware can be re-used and recycled. I’m using old windmill towers and towers from an old shortwave radio system as my repeater towers.
• With Origo.farm’s system, all data collected stays in a farm server and is the property of the farmer. Not all systems do that, so make sure you check.
• Serviceability is crucial in harsh environments. All wires need to be inside pipes or conduit to be protected from vermin and birds, as well as sunlight. Even the best cables won’t stand up to galahs.
• Hardware needs to be easy to replace. Make hardware components, such as enclosure stands, using standard bolts, pipes and brackets i.e. no machined parts.
• Seek systems that come with a service plan. Producers can farm, and we monitor, maintain and keep systems up-to-date.
• Systems must support operational efficiency i.e. create less work, not more.
If you would like to know more about new technologies in sustainable agriculture please get in contact with our Regional Agriculture Landcare Facilitators – Lizzie King (E) [email protected] or (P) 0447 361 335 and Annabelle Garratt (E) [email protected] or (P) 0448 986 879.