Keeping farmers online

Keeping Farmers Online

“[Creating] the conditions for sustainable agriculture and rural development …will involve … improving farm production and farming systems through …
infrastructure development.”

Excerpts from articles 14.2-14.4, Agenda 21, United Nations Earth Summit, 1992.


Farmers wanting to get the most out of their land have a new weapon: rural broadband, which allows them to plan and communicate with workers, collect data electronically, link the farm’s office computer with the dairy shed or yards, and receive emails and talk wirelessly – even out on the farm.

It’s one of the many applications created by Rural Link, a joint venture between WaikatoLink and Rezare Systems, arising from research conducted by the University of Waikato. FRST funding of $309,000 a year for five years from 2002 allowed a team led by Dr Murray Pearson from the Computer Science Department research group, WAND, to create the
technology to provide broadband internet access for farmers and rural communities. Schools and communities are already hooked up in parts of the Waikato, around Rotorua, the Urewera National Park, and the Hokianga Harbour.

Also under development by the University research group is a set of wireless nodes that could be either backpacked into a remote disaster area, driven in on a trailer, or dropped in by helicopter. Rather than waiting days for communication lines to be restored following a disaster, the nodes provide good, temporary communications in the hours following a disaster.

Possibly the best-known WAND spinoff is the network traffic monitoring technology company Endace which also arose out of FRST funding. It is now a publicly listed company and considered a world leader in network monitoring solutions.

External funding gratefully acknowledged: Foundation for Research, Science and Technology.


This page has been reformatted for printing.