Innovations drive rural data usage

A massive 34 per cent average year-on-year data usage increase in New Zealand’s rural communities since 2017 is being attributed to use of new technologies that drive efficiency, productivity and sustainability in the sector.

Rural broadband specialists Farmside, powered by Vodafone NZ, released the statistics on rural data usage as part of their involvement in the first Fieldays Online launched last month, where they showcased three of the latest innovations driving smarter, and more connected, farms.

The Farmside/Vodafone site displayed water quality monitoring system RiverWatch that analyses real-time data on the health of NZ’s waterways; smart traps that run on Vodafone’s narrowband IoT network to keep the bird sanctuary at Punakaiki predator-free; and a Wide Area Network that securely connects all Pamu NZ’s farms with its corporate offices.

Farmside CEO Jason Sharp says it’s innovations such as these that has seen the demand for rural connectivity grow relentlessly in the last few years. “Farming methods have come a long way in the last decade – now technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and the Internet of Things help optimise resources, automate manual labour, and protect the environment.

“Connectivity is becoming ever more essential as digitisation changes the way rural businesses operate.”

According to Farmside, the need for online capability was particularly noticeable during Covid-19 lockdown, when the country’s rural broadband saw data usage increase by 74 per cent and satellite data usage increased by 35 per cent. Post-lockdown, data consumption continues to be high in rural areas with 16.7 per cent more data used in June 2020 than in the average six months pre-lockdown.

Jason says lockdown led to a greater need for online capability and for people to be connected. “Throughout lockdown farming didn’t stop. The need for technology actually increased as farmers grappled with both running their businesses and keeping their employees safe.

“On top of that, many farmers had families at home with the same connectivity requirements for home schooling and entertainment that the majority of NZ had.

“We’ve seen stock auctions go online, our major agriculture exhibition become the Fieldays Online event and online discussion groups replace face-to-face gatherings. Combine this with a trend towards on-farm monitoring and cloud-based applications, and data consumption will continue to rise.”


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