The New South Wales Department of Primary Industries (NSW DPI) launched its $6.7 million AUD Climate Smart Pilots project in 2018. The program trials digital technologies to improve the information generated for farmers regarding natural resources and climate variability across fisheries, horticulture and livestock sectors. As temperatures warm, rainfall regimes change and seasons shift, innovative Internet of Things (IoT) technology can provide early warnings, input control and new ways to manage farming systems.
With an annual production worth more than $59 million AUD, New South Wales oyster production plays an important economic role in the fisheries sector. As part of the Climate Smart Pilots project, NSW DPI developed an Estuary Sensor Platform for oyster farmers leveraging Semtech’s LoRa® devices and the LoRaWAN® standard.
The various long range, wide area networks being established in Australia by NSW DPI and local government councils are not restricted to oyster producers. They may be freely used by anyone, including developers, researchers, schools, businesses, and individuals.
Helping Farmers Develop Climate Adaptation Strategies
Mounted on buoys and fixed locations along estuaries where freshwater from rivers mixes with salt water from the ocean, are a series of marine-proof sensors provided by ICT International, an IoT solution provider for environmental applications. The integrated solution delivers real-time data from sensors through gateways then directly into the hands of licensed oyster growers.
The NSW DPI platform includes:
- Floating salinity and temperature sensors in the estuary channel and oyster harvest zones, monitoring changes in water conditions
- Fixed salinity and temperature sensors, measuring tidal effects
- Temperature loggers near oysters to monitor and provide warning of extreme temperature events
- Automatic weather stations, providing accurate and timely data to farmers that is local to their oyster production zones
Although rainfall is a welcome sight for many NSW farmers, for oyster farmers it needs to be monitored carefully. This is because flood events can damage oyster farming infrastructure and create conditions conducive to oyster mortality. Additionally, the introduction of excess sediments, a sudden or prolonged drop in water temperature or displacement of saline water can create a hostile habitat.
“The purpose of our pilots is to foster innovation and provide farmers with accurate information to make better management decisions,” said Matt Pierce, Project Officer at NSW DPI. “Previously, it was a bit of a guess to determine how heat conditions or rainfall were affecting their oysters. Now, growers can monitor real-time conditions and receive instant notifications when temperatures or water salinity have met predetermined thresholds.”
For instance, one of the farmers on the Clyde River deployed an ICT International temperature sensor on his live storage tank which holds 12,000 sale-ready oysters. Months went by without any notifications until one Friday the circulation pump was left off during regular tank maintenance. The next morning, the farmer received a text stating the storage tank was beginning to overheat. He was able to get the pump turned back on and saved a mortality incident that could have resulted in a loss of between $8,000-10,000 AUD.
“Growers keep telling me, ‘This system is brilliant. Every morning I pull out my phone and check out the conditions on the river and on my lease to decide what actions I need to take today,’” said Pierce.
Data-based management systems leveraging LoRa are driving reductions in oyster mortality, increasing accurate harvest times and reducing labor costs.
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