SYDNEY and ALBANY, N.Y., Oct. 29, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- The full value of agricultural production in New York State is not being realised as farmers in many rural and regional areas continue to struggle with sub-standard broadband coverage.
Agricultural production was worth $5.75 billion in revenue to New York State in 2017, according to United States Department of Agriculture figures, but the full potential of its contribution to the state's economy could be enhanced if farmers had access to improved and more reliable telecommunications networks, according to a market leader in the ag machinery sector.
Daniele Maggiolini is the Head of Mergers and Acquisition in North America for CNH Industrial, a global organisation whose ag machinery brands are focused on improving the connectivity options for their customers to ensure they can take full advantage of the increasingly sophisticated technology associated with their product lines.
"Large areas of the US are not covered by good cellular technology or cellular reception, so there's a clear need in the market for solutions to this," Daniele said. "And this need is just going to grow as we see the increasing need for data management from a machinery perspective, and the expansion of the usage of the likes of the Internet of Things (IoT) on farms. Fast and reliable in-field connectivity is vital to realise the full potential of precision agriculture, and as a direct result of that, improvement in the profitability of farm businesses."
CNH Industrial actively engages with start-ups around the world in an effort to identify new and innovative solutions. One of its ag machinery brands, Case IH, is currently working in Australia with an emerging company focused on solving the issue of poor network coverage on farms by developing technology that enables power-efficient broadband connectivity across vast distances.
The partnership between Zetifi and Case IH Australia/New Zealand has resulted in a series of trials of a portable Wi-Fi repeater fitted to a tractor, that effectively creates a 'bubble of connectivity' around it, enabling a machine's telematics, remote support and data transfer capabilities, along with Wi-Fi calling, messaging, email and internet access for the machine's operator.
The trials have been carried out in conjunction with dozens of Case IH customers in Australia, and several large Case IH dealerships, and their success has now prompted Zetifi to look to other localities facing the same connectivity challenges, with the company now in discussions with large US Case IH dealership, Monroe Tractor, which has multiple locations across New York State.
It's a move that has been made possible by Zetifi's involvement in the Grow-NY Food and Agriculture Competition, of which Zetifi has just been named a finalist, but beyond the chance to secure some welcome funding from the $3M prize money available, it's allowed the company to make some valuable contacts in New York State and potentially offer its technology to farmers in the US with similar coverage problems to their counterparts in rural and regional Australia.
"Reliable connectivity and network coverage is an issue all around the world. When telecommunications providers look at building a network and infrastructure there is an equation built around the population coverage and in rural areas a lot of space is covered not by people, but by arable land. But that doesn't mean there's isn't a lot of data that still needs to be shared and that's what we're trying to address," said Daniele. "This is where a solution like the one Zetifi is pioneering will have a significant role in driving innovation in farm-wide, and importantly region-wide, connectivity now and into the future."
Seth Conway is the Precision Product Manager for Monroe Tractor and is enthusiastic about a proposed trial of Zetifi's technology, saying the issues the company's trying to solve in Australia are an accurate reflection of those faced by his own customers.
"A focus on innovation and significant investment in recent years by ag machinery manufacturers like Case IH has led to enormous technology advances in their product lines, all of which are aimed at improving the bottom-line for farmers. So, it's vital they can take full advantage of this technology on their tractors, sprayers and combines, which is only possible with reliable and affordable connectivity," he said. "To us, it seems Zetifi is developing a solution for farmers who face these challenges and we're eager to try it out and learn more about the potential benefits to our customers."
As agriculture confronts the challenge of feeding a rapidly growing global population in coming decades, Daniele said the focus of companies like Case IH would remain firmly on technology solutions for driving greater machinery performance, productivity and efficiencies, and in conjunction with that, supporting the efforts of those pioneering the connectivity gateways on which so many of these advancements rely.
"Farming is one of those activities where customers want their success to be proven in the field so it's up to us to do everything we can to offer the best possible solutions. We realise we alone can't solve all these problems and we need to partner within the industry, and when we look at Zetifi and the solution they're bringing to the market, it's unique and the business model and involvement of stakeholders at every step means a product that reflects the needs of the farmer, for the benefit of agriculture."
At Zetifi, we connect people in rural, regional, and remote areas with the latest and best digital technology for their specific needs. We are a wireless networking company, developing and supporting solar-powered wireless network devices for anyone experiencing limited or sub-standard voice, video, or internet services. Based in New South Wales, Australia, our team understands the day-to-day challenges of accessing reliable, affordable and secure broadband internet and we are committed to improving farm-wide and region-wide connectivity for those living and working in rural and remote areas.
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