The digital age has brought new opportunities to agriculture in the form of smart farming. The promised benefits are time saving, reduced costs and improved quality. Whether it is using cameras, soil moisture or tank water level sensors, temperature, fence voltages, you name it – you need to be able to get all that data back to the homestead. There are a few different ways, but the cheapest and easiest is usually Wi-Fi.
In this article we’ll talk about extending the Wi-Fi you already have at the house out to the shed, to be able to connect to a JVA IP Energiser ® to allow you to monitor your electric fence. We’ll talk about covering the whole farm with Wi-Fi in our next article.
Extending the Signal
Your home internet router is probably already transmitting Wi-Fi, but the signal currently doesn’t make it all the way to the shed. What can you do? Simple – add an extender. These come in three basic modes, although some devices can cover more than one mode.
Pros: Simple and reliable
Cons: Need to run a cable
To set up one of these, you’ll need to run an ethernet cable from your home internet router out to the extender in the shed. This device will also need power, they typically come with a small 240Vac plug pack. The maximum distance for Ethernet cabling (Cat5 or Cat6) is 100m. Example device: TP-WR702N. Another option is to mount a Ubiquity Nanostation (2.4 ghz model) on the outside of your house and point a narrow beam of Wi-Fi at your shed. This will work so long as the shed has an opening (window) facing the house or the shed walls are not solid metal.
Pros: Easy and cheap
Cons: Must be placed within existing Wi-Fi range
A Wireless extender sits on the edge of your existing home Wi-Fi range, picks up the network, then boosts it further out. This could give you another 20m of range. So, if you have signal just outside the house but not enough to make it all the way to your shed, you could place one of these in on say, the veranda. These need to be configured to join your existing Wi-Fi network. Example device: TP-WA850RE.
Pros: Cover a big distance through the air
Cons: Requires a device at each end
If the shed is more than 50m from the house and running cable doesn’t sound like fun, there is a better way; Wi-Fi repeaters. We’ve used the Ubiquiti brand devices on farms and game parks to monitor fences tens of kilometres away. The first unit attaches to your roof or house wall and is wired to your router. It points a narrow Wi-Fi beam at the shed. Then at the shed end, another device picks it up and sends out a new Wi-Fi network to cover the whole shed.
A note on brands: We recommend Ubiquiti (excellent performance and good price) and TP-Link (good performance and excellent price) devices and have used both with success. We aren’t affiliated with either and there are plenty of other brands. If using Ubiquiti, go for the Nanostation range, or ask your local dealer.