By Richard McIntyre, Dairy Chair and telecommunications spokesperson
It is no surprise to anyone reading this but on farm labour shortages are here to stay. In the coming years we are going to shift to more people retiring from the New Zealand work force than the number of people entering it.
For those already struggling to attract staff on farm, we are told we need to look at tech solutions, and a lot of them are significant, eyewatering investments that certainly aren’t something that as a sharemilker I am going to be able to do. And a lot relying on connectivity that I know so many of you don’t have.
But Gallagher have a handful of solutions up their sleeve to help make things easier on farm. They’re portable, easy to install and some can work either with your wifi or connecting to low earth orbit satellites.
Water Monitoring Solution
This is a small device that can be used to monitor the level of a number of stored liquids including water (in tanks, dams), diesel (in tanks) and is being tested for use in effluent ponds.
For those holding facilities that are outside of a wifi signal (and most are probably a good drive away), the satellite option will send a signal to a satellite every six hours (which is when the satellite will likely pass overhead) which then sends an update to your phone. While not a live monitoring it will still help you catch big leaks. For those who have some connectivity nearby (like wifi at the cow shed), the wifi option will give you live alerts.
The device itself comes with a cable that you sink to the bottom of the tank/dam, that you then link to the app via QR codes. After you tell the app some information about the tank/dam, it will give you a reading based on that information. Should you need to move the device in future, you just configure it using the same steps at its new location.
The annual costs are affordable at $100 per annum (per device) after the first year for the satellite option, or $29 per year for the wifi option for up to 12 devices. The battery life of the satellite device is also impressive lasting at least seven years as it only wakes up when the satellite is overhead and otherwise runs dormant.
Dealing with power issues on farm can be a huge drain on time, especially when you are dealing with crop fencing and newer staff who haven’t quite got the handle on how electricity works. Gallagher’s Energizer unit monitors electric fence performance and through the app you can set bespoke alerts to track even small faults that create leaks (i.e. when a tape gate has been hung up incorrectly).
Staff can also have access to the app, which has the handy feature of being able to turn the power off from anywhere (connectivity dependent) rather than them having to traipse back to the unit to turn it off burning more time and fuel in the process. The zone monitors (an additional cost to purchase per device but useful) communicate via the fence lines themselves and can tell you in which zone the fault is in to save time driving around trying to find it.
The best news is for sharemilkers – all these solutions (by comparison) are relatively affordable and really portable, and don’t require any specialist installation, empowering you to make efficiencies within your workforce (and for yourself).