The Internet of Things (IoT) is still approaching the ‘peak of inflated expectations’ on the Gartner Hype Cycle and there are limited examples of how the technology has been operationalised and is delivering real business value.
That’s the opinion of Ros Harvey, managing director and founder of agtech business The Yield, which is currently rolling out its IoT aquaculture solution to oyster farmers across New South Wales and Tasmania.
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Harvey puts the hype factor down to a focus on the functionality of the technology itself over the business problem it can solve.
“I think that’s because it’s still being technology-lead rather than business problem-lead,” Harvey told Which-50. “I think there is some way to go, I think the value will be in different business models rather than in the technology itself. It’s easy to put together a prototype. It’s a hell of a lot harder to deliver a commercial-grade, reliable, scalable solution that you can make money off.”
The business problem The Yield initially focused on was how to reduce unnecessary harvest closures of oyster farms and to protect food safety.
Being filter animals oysters are highly susceptible to water quality and can accumulate contaminants from runoff when it rains heavily. Therefore regulators use rainfall as a proxy and oyster farms have to close until conditions improve.
According to Harvey, analysis has revealed that around 30 per cent of closures based on rainfall gauge readings are in fact unwarranted – the water quality and the oysters are fine. When demand is high, for example at Christmas and New Year, it is estimated growers lose around $120,000 in revenue each day they can’t harvest.
The Yield is working with the Tasmanian government and oyster farmers in 14 of the state’s estuaries to deploy a new system that uses in-estuary sensors, cloud computing and machine learning to monitor water quality and temperature.
Harvey believes you shouldn’t build things you can buy, so has partnered with Microsoft, Intel and Bosch.
How Does It Work?
Data is collected by sensors in-estuary. It is then fed through Bosch’s ProSyst software through to the Microsoft IoT Hub in Microsoft Azure where it is stored alongside national weather data. The data is combined and presented to oyster farmers to enable faster decisions. With an insights dashboard, growers can view salinity, water temperature (critical in order to assess the risk of the Pacific Oyster Mortality Syndrome virus) and can plan harvests before bad weather hits.
Harvey describes the oyster technology as an entree to the rest of the business which has global aspirations.
The Yield will be launching an agriculture product in October this year and is kicking off a capital raising campaign at the World Agri-Tech Investment Summit in November in London.
So far technology partner Bosch has invested $3 million into the business and Harvey said The Yield is looking for strategic investors to help the business scale.
“We are very clear that we are a global business. We intend to innovate and nail our technology in Australia and then scale globally. That’s why our partnerships with Bosch, Microsoft and Intel are very important to us,” Harvey said.