CommsDay: NNNCo forms JV with Discovery Ag for new nationwide agriculture IoT net

Published: June 19th, 2017

The National Narrowband Network Co and agricultural analytics firm Discovery Ag will today announce a new joint venture company, Connected Country, to build and operate a nationwide rural IoT network for Australian farmers. Meanwhile, NNNCo CEO and founder Rob Zagarella told CommsDay that his firm was working on partnerships in other key verticals to be announced in the coming months – though not all would employ quite the same type of JV arrangement.

The rural network will be an extension of the long range, wide area network that NNNCo is already rolling out across the country, underpinned by its key partnerships with companies including Cisco, electronic component manufacturer Murata and low power wide area networking specialist Actility. Selected for its low power consumption, data privacy, open standards foundation and the modest cost of compatible sensors, LoRaWAN tech will provide a foundation for “secure, standards-based shared networks of low-cost wireless sensors” to provide a constant stream of key data for farmers – including everything from soil moisture and water levels to livestock and crop health metrics. The JV partners plan to roll out the network “immediately” across a million acres in New South Wales in the first instance, and to extend it “across vast areas of the nation’s farming regions” within 18 months.

As previously reported in CommsDay, NNNCo has been working for some time to target its IoT network at specific verticals while simultaneously building up a base of key partners. The Discovery Ag JV is a logical next step on both counts. Agriculture has been tipped as an industry where the IoT could make a major contribution – but, according to Discovery Ag CEO Alicia Garden (pictured), large areas of farmland currently either lack network coverage or only have access to connectivity so expensive as to preclude the deployment of cost-effective sensor networks.

“The Rural IoT Network is an extension of the NNN that we’re building nationwide and will help to solve connectivity and affordability problems for farmers. Together with Discovery Ag we will be providing low-cost end-to end standards based solutions comprising on-farm networks, network-ready sensors, and access to simple on-farm tools that farmers can use to monitor information and take timely action,” said NNNCo’s Zagarella. “The network will significantly drive down the cost of connection for data communication and the cost of sensors using this technology. This will make the difference between isolated usage and widespread deployment of the sensors which will in turn provide more granular information and higher value to the industry.”

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