AN Australian company focused on resolving inadequate internet and phone connectivity in rural and remote Australia has claimed one of the top prizes in the hotly-contested US food and ag-tech competition, Grow-NY, taking home US$500,000.
Zetifi, which is based at Wagga Wagga in southern New South Wales, has developed new technology to solve connectivity problems in areas with limited access to suitable broadband and little or no mobile coverage.
The company has conducted numerous trials with farmers in Victoria and NSW and is on track to commercialise a viable model for eliminating mobile blackspots across Australia’s primary production areas.
One of these trials is with the support of Birchip Cropping Group (BCG), a not-for-profit agricultural research and extension organisation led by farmers from the Wimmera and Mallee regions of Victoria, with the company commencing a pilot program that’s delivering cost-effective Wi-Fi solutions across a number of large farming properties while solving the mobile blackspot issues between Birchip and Sea Lake.
Grow-NY is a high-profile food and agriculture business competition that identifies, supports, and funds the top food, beverage, and agriculture innovations across the globe, with more than 260 companies putting entries forward this year.
The competition includes prize money, mentorship, training, business development support, and tax incentives.
Zetifi founder, Dan Winson, said being named in the top three was an enormous opportunity for Zetifi.
He said the company was now poised to establish a team in Rochester, in New York State and start trials of its products with agricultural machinery dealership, Monroe Tractor, a Case IH dealer that has multiple locations across New York State and whose customers often confront the same connectivity challenges faced by their Australian counterparts.
Mr Winson said the benefits of improved connectivity were reflected in research undertaken by the BCG, estimating that poor mobile reception and internet coverage has the potential to reduce farm profitability by about $5/hectare across the grain belt of the Wimmera/Mallee region, equivalent to $15,000 a year for the average (3000ha) Victorian grains property.
As part of the BCG trials, Zetifi is trialling its ZetiCells and ZetiRovers, the former a long-range solar powered public Wi-Fi hotspot and the latter a portable Wi-Fi repeater fitted to a piece of machinery or vehicle.
The ZetiRover is also the focus of a series of trials Zetifi is conducting in conjunction with Case IH Australia/New Zealand, with dozens of Case IH customers and several large Case IH dealerships involved.