The importance of implementing better water management practices and improving water efficiency is the foundation of our products. By providing both ranchers and their livestock with sustainable resource management, we are safeguarding the long-term availability of water.
RanchBot Remote Monitoring Revolutionizes Water Stewardship and Management
Q&A with Andrew Coppin, CEO | Ranchbot Monitoring Solutions
Tell us about yourself and what led you to begin your company, Ranchbot.
My co-founder Craig Hendricks and I started Ranchbot, or Farmbot as it’s called in Australia, in 2016 during a major drought. We knew something needed to be created for ranchers to help relieve the time and stress of monitoring and managing their stock water.
We have firsthand knowledge of the time and money spent driving around ranches to check water that 95% of the time doesn’t need checking. Yet the 5% of time it did need maintenance, it was critical. We knew there had to be a more efficient way — a way that could save Ranchers time and money.
Building from our personal experiences with livestock, and practical insights from ranchers and engineers, we created Ranchbot to help producers stop wasting water, make better management decisions, improve sustainability and boost profitability.
Australia is a global leader in agritech. Describe the evolution of agritech in Australia and how the country's influence is impacting agriculture worldwide.
Agriculture is a top industry in Australia and greatly supports the country’s economy, as well as the global food system. In the U.S., we hear a lot about Australia’s impact on agritech and the number of startup companies coming from Australia. The latest statistic is more than 750 agritech companies are in Australia. We have a strong cohort in the ranch and water management areas given its importance in that market.
Agritech is rapidly evolving tools and technologies that allow agribusiness to innovate, grow and adopt more efficient production practices. It has the potential to advance the profitability and sustainability of agriculture and refers to sensors, farm management software, and imagery.
From automation to resource management, ag technologies are positively impacting farming and ranching practices, supply chain operations, and the advancement of sustainability and stewardship within the industry. For example, Farmbot, our Australian company, now helps roughly 3,000 ranches monitor, conserve and better manage precious water resources whilst helping reduce carbon emissions and improve sustainability outcomes.
What are the main initiatives of the Australian Agritech Association and how is the group helping farmers and ranchers, as well as agriculture companies in Australia?
Australia is quickly emerging as a hub for Agriculture 4.0 – the next generation of technologies set to revolutionize the agrifood sector. Combined, agritech and food tech sectors are booming in Australia, with more than 2,500 enterprises across the country.
I currently serve as president of the Australian Agritech Association, an organization developed to advance the agritech sector in Australia. The association advocates for the recognition of agritech through relationships with key parties in government, corporations and the agri-food tech and supply chain ecosystem. We also help build collaborations with U.S. and other technology companies from around the globe as often the problems we are solving are global in nature.
Bottom line, the main initiatives of agritech focus on the frontline of farming and ranching. The association is committed to supporting farmers and ranchers through ensuring a better future by the application of technologies to address challenges like sustainability, climate change, and food resiliency. Ultimately, how will we feed the people of our planet in a sustainable way whilst navigating climate change?
How and why did Farmbot select the U.S. for expansion?
We didn’t make the decision to expand to the U.S. lightly. Whilst our mission and passion is providing ranchers with smart, cost-effective and easy-to-use water management tools, we needed to make sure we had a product that would meet the needs of U.S. ranchers and the operating environment in North America.
We covered some 13,000 miles on the road visiting ranchers across many states to hear first hand about their challenges with water and to assess the suitability of our technology. We met with cattlemen associations, universities and government regulators and we heard many challenges about managing water scarcity in drought that were familiar to us and soon realized we really could help.
So many of the landscapes across parts of the U.S. are similar to Australia, as is the plight of the ranchers on those lands. How can we grow more with less? How can we run a better business? How can we leave the land better than we found it? We heard from ranchers who were looking to make more informed management decisions and who were in search of productivity and profitability gains. They were struggling with increasing costs of gas, labor, regulation and inputs and those are all things Ranchbot can help them with. Since our launch on February 1, 2023, the uptake of Ranchbot in America has been rapid and we’re very excited about our future.
Tell us about Ranchbot and how the technology promotes environmental sustainability and stewardship.
The importance of implementing better water management practices and improving water efficiency is the foundation of our products. By providing both ranchers and their livestock with sustainable resource management, we are safeguarding the long-term availability of water. Our research indicates every 100 Ranchbot water level sensors saves an estimated 10 million gallons of water from being wasted each year.
By automating the task of checking water sources in rural and often hard-to-access geographies, Ranchbot remote monitoring solutions help ensure precious water resources are not wasted. Our system alerts of leaks, overfilling of tanks, excessive drawdowns on wells via burst pipes or animals knocking off floats in troughs — all management issues that happen in the busy life of a rancher.
With Ranchbot, issues are immediately detected meaning water is not lost or wasted. Animals are never without water and pumps aren't running unnecessarily. Add to that the thousands of miles of driving, wear and tear on vehicles, and carbon emissions we save and you can see how we add to sustainability and environmental stewardship pretty easily.
How can producers benefit from the Ranchbot system?
Ranchers are great stewards of the land and natural resources but their to-do list rarely has an end as they spend their days dealing with the tasks that are important or critical across the ranch.
What we hear the most from our customers is that our system saves them time, saves them money, and maybe most importantly, gives them peace of mind. I guess we didn't fully appreciate how much time ranchers spent worrying about all the things they can't see or control. Our system gives them that visibility so they can rest at night and focus on what's most important.
Added benefits we have seen coming from our technology include better understanding of grazing. By measuring rainfall and soil moisture in relation to pasture health and grass growth, animal welfare benefits of ensuring animals are never without water.
We currently offer Ranchbot monitoring solutions for water levels in storage tanks, ponds, dirt tanks as well as pipe flow, pipe pressure and rainfall. We are now launching our remote pump control system, compatible with a wide range of pumps on the market — diesel, solar and utility powered. The time and gas spent going to turn pumps on and off is material too, so being able to do that from your cell phone or desktop, knowing the pump is on and running without even going there is going to be another game changer for ranchers too! Users can access the MyRanchbot app from anywhere on their cell phone, laptop or tablet, and our system will send them alerts by text message or email when there’s a problem.
Connectivity is perceived as a challenge for ranchers adopting technology. How have you overcome this?
Connectivity is a big issue in remote areas in all corners of the globe, and frankly, even in our cities and urban areas sometimes too. At Ranchbot we use an array of different communications protocols across our technology to ensure we are always using the most cost effective, reliable communications that are fit for purpose. To this end in remote areas and in big rangelands we advocate and use real time satellite communications as it's really the only thing you can rely on when it comes to real time alerts and activation.
In closer proximities we have sensors that talk to Ranchbot within a 3- to 5-mile radius so we can have many sensors talking to one device giving our customers even greater functionality and visibility.
The biggest challenge for us has been to find the best communications companies in the world who can work with us to deliver the functionality we need at the right cost. With over 18,000 sensors now in the field I think we can say with confidence our satellite and other communications have materially solved the problem of unreliable connectivity in rural areas that has previously been a barrier to technology use.
Where are Ranchbot water monitoring systems manufactured? If they have an issue how do you troubleshoot and support?
Ranchbot is proudly manufactured and distributed out of Texas. We knew it was important for American ranchers to have an American-made product and a company that's creating jobs here in the USA.
If ranchers need help troubleshooting or any support, we have a dedicated team to assist them who all have backgrounds in ranching and deeply understand the problems we are solving. Our team in the U.S. is available to answer any questions and provide direction on how Ranchbot can work within a specific ranching operation.
We realize when ranchers need support, they only have a few moments to spare. They don’t want to wait on a customer service line. They want supportive, reliable, and effective solutions to fix a time sensitive issue.
About Andrew Coppin
Andrew Coppin is a passionate advocate for the use of technology on ranches to improve productivity, profitability, and the management of natural capital. After an extensive executive career in capital markets and funds management, Coppin has spent the last six years in the agritech sector mentoring emerging technology companies as an investor, adviser and company director. Coppin is the co-founder and CEO of Ranchbot Monitoring Solutions and president of the Australian Agritech Association.
The content & opinions in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of AgriTechTomorrow
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