Electric fencing seems set to roll out far further from the house paddock than ever before after the release of new remote monitoring technology by the powered fencing pioneer, Gallagher.
The company’s Dashboard Fence is offering farmers updates on faults and energy voltage trends as they happen, even when operators are far away from their farm, or the fence is constructed well away from the comfort of the homestead.
The remote monitoring opportunity has been made possible using smart electronics connected to solar powered Gallagher energizers which, in turn, use a WiFi connection to provide regular updates on an electric fence’s status, via a smartphone app.
If WiFi is not available, a cellular connection can be supplied by an internet service provider to provide alternative connectivity.
The monitoring system, which taps into remote sensing units on six points, or fencing zones, around the property, even has capacity to identify an approximate fault location if a fence has been damaged.
There’s more opportunity to make some significant savings by erecting electric fencing in remote areas, and be confident you’ll know how its working
Gallagher’s animal management marketing manager, Mark Harris, is confident the new monitor system will be a game changer in Australia where electric fencing has traditionally been less likely to be erected too far from home base.
He said farmers were inherently cautious about potential faults and their ability to constantly check the fence if the fence is some distance away home, or they are not in the paddock regularly.
“A decision to erect a fence, say 100 kilometres away, has not been an easy one, until now,” Mr Harris said.
“Suddenly there’s a lot more opportunity to make some significant savings by erecting electric fencing in remote areas, and be confident you’ll know how its working.
“You can now contemplate electric fencing with a lot more confidence, knowing you’ll be keeping the stock in and the roos out.”
A similar monitoring arrangement already exists for fences energised by mains power, but it is housed alongside the power source which is invariably based at the homestead or in nearby outbuildings which are easily accessible for frequent inspection.
For a registration cost of $120 a year the dashboard app will provide graphs showing current and voltage trends over daily, weekly, or monthly time periods, and will store the information indefinitely if necessary.
A game changer
Gallagher’s Australian general manager, Malcolm Linn, is feels the dashboard on a farmer’s smartphone will become a major selling point for electric fencing.
The 90-year-old Gallagher company, which releases as many as 20 new or upgraded products every year, already boasts about 60 per cent of the electric fencing market in Australia and New Zealand.
Mr Linn said given electric fencing installations cost half as much as a conventional fenceline, the options opening up to broadacre livestock producers in rangeland-type environments were genuine.
And they cost much less to build than you’ve had to worry about before,
“We’re already getting very effective wild dog and roo control with our Westonfences and this device enables you to have the surety and peace of mind that these fences are working, even if you can’t be out checking them,” he said.
Gallagher’s Westonfence is designed as a low maintenance, easy to construct, cost effective boundary fence line with feral exclusion capabilities in mind, while also ideal for paddock subdivision.
“And they cost much less to build than you’ve had to worry about before,” he said.
Solar powered progress
Remote monitoring has been made possible by Gallagher’s strength as a developer of the solar-powered energisers which can run a charge through hot wired fences for years without needing to be upgraded.
Although based in NZ at Hamilton where its products are developed and assembled, Gallagher has relied on its 48-year-old Australian division to take the lead in refining and assessing the market opportunities for much of its solar innovations, including its new lightweight S200 and S400 integrated solar energizers.
With no mains power required, the all-in-one portable power packs have two separate solar panels providing a charge for up to 30 kilometres of fencing.
The battery holds up to four joules of capacity, making it the largest integrated solar energizer on the market.
They are also smart, with in-built microchip technology which automatically adjusts the unit to cope with low light conditions, effectively slowing the electric pulse rate along the fenceline by as much as 25 per cent if battery voltage declines without being adequately recharged.
Smart energy use
Modifying the current to suit weather conditions also means the battery lasts longer – up to four or five years in the field rather than the two or three years previously anticipated.
Mr Harris noted even without any sunlight the energiser may operate for up to 20 days.
The compact, easily transported 12 kilogram battery and solar panel package meant the S200 and S400 models were ideal for permanent placement in hard to reach locations, yet could also be transported around the farm to power rotational grazing blocks.
“In the past you’d be relying on a battery weighing about 25kg which you’d charge up and replace every week,” Mr Harris said.
“Now it’s half the weight and charges itself without going anywhere.”