Mei 02 2023

Joining The Smart Farming Revolution with Satellite Broadband

The emergence of agricultural technology is transforming the world of farming, but it depends on universal broadband connectivity to happen.


Rural areas are almost invariably the last places to get high-speed access to the internet, and that means the agricultural sector has been among the slowest to adopt digital technologies that have the potential to revolutionize the industry. Despite this, agricultural technology, or agtech, is rapidly emerging to transform the landscape of modern farming. From monitoring climate change patterns to livestock health to soil fertility, data and connectivity play a central role in that transformation.


Unfortunately, the vast majority of farmers across the APAC region remain unconnected. One study conducted in New Zealand in 2020 – a highly developed economy by any measure – found that half of the dairy farmers were still without broadband access. In less developed regions, such as Papua New Guinea, where 80% of the population live in rural areas, just a tiny minority of farms have access to the internet.


With these and many other southeast Asian economies being heavily reliant on agriculture, it stands to reason that the sector needs to modernize to facilitate broader economic growth. In Papua New Guinea, after all, agriculture accounts for over a quarter of the country’s GDP. If, however a widespread lack of reliable broadband connectivity continues to be a barrier to the adoption of modern digital tech, then innovation simply cannot happen. Fiber optic broadband, while faster than all other options, is rarely practical for connecting rural areas due to the high costs of laying the necessary infrastructure. Fiber currently costs an average of $27,000 per mile, hence the difficulties in achieving an attractive ROI when connecting farms and large tranches of agricultural or terrestrial land.


Why the future of farming relies on connectivity

Just like any other industry, modern agriculture relies on data. In the case of farms, that means data pertaining to climate patterns, soil fertility, livestock health, and weather conditions. That data first needs to be collected before being transmitted to a centralized cloud storage service and processed to change it into actionable insights.


Since agricultural land is typically set back from highly populated areas, a lack of infrastructure is a common barrier to technological innovation. Fiber-optic broadband is almost unheard of in remote, rural areas, such as the many small island or mountainous communities across the APAC region. Mobile broadband, typically in the form of 4G or the older 3G, is usually more widely available, but it is often subject to high data charges and connectivity blackspots. Even in New Zealand, 4G connectivity is rare outside of populated areas and major roads.


The emergence of the internet of things (IoT) is one of the most transformative developments in agriculture. Everything from crops to livestock to machinery have feedback mechanisms and using internet-connected sensors can provide the real-time insights that farmers need to continuously optimize their operations. For example, soil fertility sensors can increase crop yields and quality standards, while real-time monitoring can proactively detect machines at a high risk of malfunctioning or crops or livestock susceptible to disease. IoT also shows promise for facilities like salmon and shrimp farms, where it can provide crucial insights into the health of sea life and local environments.


Another increasingly important use case for connectivity in agriculture is managing business operations online. However, many farmers lack even the simple ability to buy and sell produce online, which can greatly reduce their access to lucrative business opportunities. Instead, they do everything manually, which typically involves a lot of travelling and waiting. Larger farms, which have plenty of expensive machinery to monitor and maintain, face even greater challenges, simply because it takes much longer to detect and resolve problems. With Kacific Gigstarter, large farms and rural communities can have access to affordable satellite internet with unlimited data and coverage. Monthly unlimited data plans with speeds of up to 30 Mbps download and 10 Mbps upload start from USD 195 per month, a small fee to connect farms that are usually located in far flung areas with reliable, fast, fiber-like broadband speeds.  Terminal fees have also been brought down to a one-time fee of approximately USD 600 in most markets for more end-users to own the product. To support the burgeoning demand for IoT products in the market, Kacific Internet of Things plan can also be easily added on to the Gigstarter plan, maximizing the use of the same terminal installed. We can also offer both IoT and Gigstarter plans via a single terminal.


The growing demand for more sustainable farming practices is another key area of concern. To address these challenges, farmers need the ability to track energy consumption and output. Doing so grants them the opportunity to continuously enhance farming techniques, such as by controlling waste management, crop management, irrigation systems, and energy usage. Again, these things are practically impossible to achieve at scale without universal broadband connectivity.


Case Study: Connecting South Westland Salmon in New Zealand


The Monk family owns and operates South Westland Salmon, a whitebait and salmon farming business in Paringa, a small town in the west coast of South Island, which is located close to the famed Fox Glacier.


The Monks video:


The off-the-grid location, however, means getting a reliable and cost-effective internet connection to run their business is a challenge. Gravity Internet, our local internet service provider, connected the Monk family and their businesses, with Kacific Gigstarter, and now they are able to do what they do faster and better.


How satellite broadband closes connectivity gaps and modernizes farming


Being online, no matter where you’re physically located in an agricultural facility, grants access to the real-time information you need to solve real-time problems. Unfortunately, in rural areas especially, the chances of having universal broadband connectivity are highly unlikely. Fiber-optic broadband and 5G mobile broadband offer higher speeds, but they remain unavailable in most rural areas and are likely to remain so for the foreseeable future.


Satellite broadband is vital for closing that gap because it doesn’t rely on local infrastructure. Instead, it works anywhere with a line of sight to the sky to provide dependable internet access in all but the most extreme of weather conditions. Modern Ka-band broadband satellites, which orbit the Earth at an altitude of 35,786 km, offer high bandwidth, high transmission power, and support smaller satellite dishes, including very small aperture terminals (VSATs).


Furthermore, geostationary satellites still offer more reliable connectivity than newer low-Earth orbit (LEO) broadband satellites, which are more susceptible to outages as satellites hand off connections to others that make up the constellations. In other words, satellite broadband lets you stay connected 24 -7, even if you’re located in the middle of nowhere.


Case Study: Keeping farms connected in Papua New Guinea with satellite internet


For Emma Wakapi, the owner of Jiwaka Coffee Farm in Papua New Guinea, getting herself and her farm connected had been a challenge due to her remote location far out in the Highlands, away from the capital city of Port Moresby.


Jiwaka Coffee Farm video:


With our local internet service provider partner, EmStret Holdings, Emma got connected with the Kacific Gigstarter service and is now able to contact her counterparts in other regions who were helping her to properly set up the new machinery and to process the coffee beans at the plant. Prior to getting satellite internet, poor connectivity meant each correspondence took weeks, affecting productivity and output levels.


Satellite services and the Internet of Things

Satellite broadband is the ideal solution for getting up to speed with the internet of things since it allows you to connect entire sites with ease. For example, a single satellite dish mounted in the middle of a farming area allows you to connect dozens of sensors, which can relay data back to a centralized server hosted in the cloud.


Services like Kacific Internet of Things have been designed to do exactly that by combining broadband internet with wireless access and truly universal coverage. With a fully managed service and reliable connectivity anywhere your farm is located, you can connect and monitor any site from just USD20 with 5Mbps download and 5Mbps speeds.


The world of agriculture is changing rapidly. However, for many farmers, internet access is the last barrier to entry to benefiting from those changes. Satellite broadband helps farmers get past that final hurdle and, in doing so, modernize their operations for greater sustainability and profitability.


Kacific is a next-generation broadband satellite operator providing coverage throughout the Asia Pacific region. We are committed to bringing universal connectivity to agricultural firms using compact and cost-effective VSAT terminals. Contact us today to find out more.