Connectivity for rural farmers gets new breakthrough

Ryan Boswell
Source: 1News

A new piece of technology is being trialled that could transform how rural communities and those heading to remote parts of New Zealand stay safe.

Agricultural tech company Connected Farms has brought in the ZOLEO Satellite Communicator, which provides two-way satellite communication to the most remote corners where cell phone coverage can be patchy.

It's not known how much of New Zealand's land mass is without cell reception.

CEO Tom Andrews told 1News that the device will ensure there are no delays when raising the alarm in an emergency.

He said unlike traditional satellite phones, it's small and enables two way text messaging.

"You can use it for a lot of things, simple as 'I'm going to be half an hour late', right through to someone sending a message saying 'where are you?'" he said.

It can pair with a smartphone and has an emergency response button, which is monitored by an international tracking service.

Sheep and beef farmer Abagael Higgs has been trialling the ZOLEO, and said it has been a game changer when working on Banks Peninsula in Canterbury.

"A lot of cell phone towers don't reach there so it can be hours away from cell phone coverage."

She said she was left stranded when she twisted her knee while moving stock.

"The only way I could get help was hobbling all the way back home which as it turned out actually made it worse because then I had to have surgery," said Higgs.

Figures from ACC show every year about 23,000 new claims are made for injuries on farms alone, costing upwards of $70 million.