Friday, 08 February 2019 11:17

Pressure to remain on rural connectivity

Written by  Pam Tipa
Better connectivity in rural NZ is essential for business and health & safety. Better connectivity in rural NZ is essential for business and health & safety.

Rural Women NZ (RWNZ) is keeping up the pressure over rural broadband and mobile coverage despite recent Government announcements.

RWNZ president Fiona Gower says the news that the Government plans to extend rural broadband and mobile coverage to 99% of the population is good, but even more is needed.

She says rural communities need geographic coverage and only about 50% of NZ’s geography is covered and that is where rural families live and work.

“It is 99% of the population, but there’s a lot of geography in NZ that won’t be covered,” Gower told Rural News.

“There will be pockets of the population that won’t be covered and we are looking at things like health and safety and business. 

“Few New Zealanders [will be] left without it, but we are concerned to make sure that [the new] coverage is affordable for NZers and that no rural areas will lack coverage.”

She believes it is a health and safety, and an economic issue.

“Out onfarm or on roads between properties there are areas where there is no cellphone coverage. If there is an accident or an incident and you have to get emergency services, where do you have to go to get that coverage?” Gower adds.

“It is great having broadband, but the whole connectivity passage is important. We have talked to Government a lot about this and were involved in the Rural Broadband Initiative 2 process.”

She says RWNZ is pleased the wireless internet service providers (WISPS) are getting a look in. 

“They are the ones that can get the coverage out into the wider community because they are a lot more agile in getting infrastructure out into the rural remote areas than the big telcos.”

RWNZ to keep them honest

RWNZ aims to keep up the pressure. 

“We will be keeping [the Government] to task to make sure it does happen... for education for our children, the economic benefit of having broadband for farmers, everything for real-time farming,” Gower told Rural News.

She says it is important for ensuring the health and safety of all people living rurally.

“If you have an accident on the farm, how can we ring to get help?  And if you are at the back of the farm trying to get information? We all talk about what you can download on your smartphone these days [but] if you haven’t got that connectivity to get that information it is frustrating.”

Gower has promised the RWNZ will be keeping the pressure on. 

“We are excited this is happening. We realise that technology is upgrading all the time. It is getting better and cheaper every time something is done. So let’s make sure it does happen.  And it would be nice if it even happened sooner than 2022.”

She says if rural people in remote areas can access tele-health they won’t have to travel long distances to appointments to talk to a specialist, a doctor or a counsellor. 

“They are not having to give up their time at work… that is a huge bonus in getting extra connectivity out there. All those opportunities for rural that we haven’t had up to now. We have had to down tools and drive to town because we haven’t had the access.”

Affordability is also important, says Gower.

She believes the announced expansion of the mobile black spots fund will be very helpful.

“There are some areas unavailable at the moment that will be covered. Many rural communities will get access through being a mobile black spot.”

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Lely offerings for the future

Dutch robotic specialist Lely launched a new farm management application called Horizon at its recent Future Farm Days 2020.

Designed to connect data from a range of on-farm equipment and suppliers into one management system, it creates a real-time decision-support platform, to make the farmer’s life easier, the herd healthier and the farm more profitable, says Lely.

Developed over a 24-month period, with over 100 test farmers in seven countries, working with 75 engineers, designers, farm management advisors, veterinarians and AI specialists, the new application will eventually replace the current Lely T4C management system. It uses smart algorithms and the cloud to deliver data that is processed into actionable information that is always accessible on any device in a user-friendly way.

Lely claims the Horizon application unburdens farmers from routine decision making and helps them optimise their workloads, using integrated routines based on easily scheduled cow ‘touches’, create logical and more efficient workflows. It is also possible to assign a certain task to an employee and to schedule a time slot for the cow touch, rather than analysing different reports and filtering long lists.

Horizon is also able to connect and combine data from non-Lely sources into a complete solution for the farmer removing the need to enter the same data twice, while scrutinising individual data streams in different applications will no longer be necessary. Currently, connections with farming applications such as Dairy Comp, Uniform-Agri, CRV and Herde already enable farmers to synchronise information about calving and inseminations between applications. Lely’s ambition is to connect with more partners over time, to hand the farmer more smart data.

To ensure full support in the migration to Lely Horizon, existing Lely T4C customers will be personally informed by their Lely Center before the end of 2020.

The migration is planned in a phased approach, from country to country, over the year 2021.

Also launched at the event, Lely Exos is an autonomous concept for harvesting and feeding fresh grass to the herd.

The company suggests that feeding fresh grass makes better use of available roughage, suggesting “fresh” has between 10 and 20% more nutritional value than grass silage, as there are minimal losses typically seen during mowing, tedding, raking, harvesting and feeding.

Lely suggests that feeding fresh grass over an extended season reduces the amount of silage that has to be conserved, reduces the need for concentrates and bought-in feed and increase the margin made on each litre of milk produced.

Based around an all-electric vehicle that mows and feeds, Exos is light weight and uses soil friendly technology, that can be exploited throughout the growing season. Design to work 24/7 as feed requirements change, the system places no constraints on labour or time, while it is also designed to work in tandem with the Lely Vector automatic feeding systems.

In operation, Exos also collects field data as it goes about its job, giving framers live data on grass supply and lending itself to a further concept of delivering a targeted liquid fertiliser as it passes over a harvested area.

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