Hicks Beef is a leading family-owned premium stock breeder based near Holbrook, NSW. Poor coverage around the property has been a major impediment to modernising their operations through connected agricultural solutions. Previous efforts to resolve their connectivity issues using other technologies had failed, forcing them to rely on slow satellite internet for home and office connectivity.
Despite having a 4G tower located close to the farm, nearby hills blocked the signal from reaching important parts of the property, including a cattle yard and the farmhouse. Manager Tom Hicks said coverage was so poor that you could only “get a text message out”.
While it was possible to receive SMS messages, Tom reported he would have to leave the cattle yard as calls would often drop out.
“If a staff member rings you or someone needed to ask a question, you had to leave the yard, get in your car and drive a kilometre to where you could get signal. I was constantly having to leave cattle yards to ring people,” said Tom.
Hicks Beef also experienced difficulties hosting online cattle auctions on the property as the copper-wiring between the farmhouse and cattle yard provided patchy connectivity and signal boosters didn’t work properly. The 4G reception was weak too. This limited the accessibility of bull sales via the AuctionsPlus platform and impeded Tom’s ability to access remote customer markets.
To help manage vital livestock data, Hicks Beef uses an RFID system to electronically tag and monitor cattle, enabling vets to access up-to-date animal information when assessing stock. The system has the capability to synchronise information to the cloud in real-time. Weak mobile coverage meant Tom was unable to make use of real-time information as data transfers would drop out, so at the end of each day Tom had to slowly upload the data via satellite from the farmhouse. It also created other costly risks, especially when it came to vet bills.
“If someone is assessing cattle, it can be quite time-consuming and expensive. If you have a device crash, you can lose important information resulting in vet assessments needing to be redone. Provided there is connectivity, the app can instantaneously sync the information to the cloud so the data is always up to date.“
Tom needed a solution that was fast and reliable. He learnt about Zetifi when an AuctionsPlus representatives explained they’d implemented Zetifi’s wireless technology to resolve their connectivity issues for online saleyard auctions. Impressed by the ability to establish a long-range, high-bandwidth connection in an area normally considered to be a blackspot, he contacted Zetifi to enquire about installing a permanent solution for the farm.
A Zetifi Gateway was installed on the roof of a shed overlooking the main yard by an electrician. It captures the ordinarily poor 4G signal and creates a high-bandwidth Wi-Fi network throughout the workshop, cattle yard, house and paddocks providing broadband internet access and Wi-Fi calling for uninterrupted phone calls. Wi-Fi speeds in excess of 20 megabits per second are now the norm within the yard, farmhouse and paddocks around the property, ensuring Hicks Beef is always connected.
The availability of wireless broadband in the yard and paddocks has improved productivity and safety on the farm. Hicks Beef is now able to make full use of their investment in RFID herd management, as the system continually syncs and safely backs up data to the cloud. The connectivity also means that veterinarians and other workers can quickly access extra information and resources when assessing cattle without, having to leave the yard to retrieve information or risk inconvenient device crashes.
The scalability and ease of expansion enabled by Zetifi’s modular system design on this property has raised the possibility of exploring additional connected devices, such as applications for water monitoring systems and Wi-Fi connected electric fence units.
A 200% improvement to Tom’s home and office internet speeds means his family’s devices can now operate consistently, even during cloud cover and wet weather. The network effortlessly facilitates high-definition video streaming, video calls and large file transfers, enabling the Hicks family to benefit from advances in household technology while also supporting the connectivity demands of this forward-thinking agribusiness operator.