Networking startup delivers high-speed data services to remote Australian farmers

While city dwellers may take having ubiquitous mobile phone coverage for granted, for farmers on the land it’s often a very different situation. Having zero bars of signal strength means simple tasks like making a phone call or checking email are impossible.

Determined to overcome this challenge, Wagga-based entrepreneur Dan Winson has developed a wireless networking system which boasts city-like data speeds for users in remote locations.

Wilson said his aim is for the service to help farmers both in Australia and worldwide.

Dan Winson.jpg“We use traditional Wi-Fi technology to create a farm-wide wireless network,” he said. “A user can make and receive calls on their mobile phone and access the internet as they would when connected to a conventional mobile network.”

Winson’ noted that his company, Zetifi, has already completed 40 trials of the tech which features a gateway device to link to a nearby 3G or 4G mobile tower and repeaters extending access farm-wide through a Wi-Fi network.

The company also offers a repeater unit designed to be installed in a vehicle that delivers network coverage within a 200-metre range. “Wi-Fi is a stable technology that has been in use for more than 20 years,” added. Winson. “We have packaged together off-the-shelf and customised components to create a farm-wide network that can be easily deployed in remote locations.”

Winson and his team have focused their efforts on making the equipment as power efficient as possible with many of the network devices being solar powered, which means they can be deployed just about anywhere.

“You certainly don’t need to be an electrician or a data engineer to get a network up and running,” he said. “In many cases, farmers will be able to deploy their new network themselves and be operational very quickly. Because a Zetifi network can deliver 3G or 4G-like speeds across the entire coverage area, users can stream video and downloading large files in places they previously could not have even made a mobile phone call.”

Key benefits of the Zetifi offering include:

Dramatically improved mobile phone and internet coverage.

The ability to make use of Wi-Fi connected video cameras to improve security around the farm. 

The ability to ramp up productivity by making it possible to install precision guidance technology on tractors and other farm machinery. “

The Zetifi team is continuing to develop its technology and has applied for both Australian and international patents. It is also developing relationships with a range of channel partners to distribute equipment more widely. The company expects to undertake a retail launch of its offerings next year.

 Last year Zetifi, then known as Agrinet, became a member of the SparkLabs Cultiv8 agriculture technology accelerator. Cultiv8 works with entrepreneurs to foster new AgTech ideas and grow them into successful businesses.

The SparkLabs Cultiv8 program, which accepts a new cohort of businesses each year, offers a combination of mentoring support, legal advice and access to a network of agricultural research stations at which new technologies can be trialled.

“The support and advice we received from Cultiv8 has been invaluable,” Winson said. “The business mentors have valuable knowledge expertise in building a high-growth company from the start-up phase. They have really helped us to prioritise both our time and our funds.”                                                                                                                                           

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