DIY hack for security

By Lynda Gray

In Business9 Minutes

IF WI-FI DOESN’T REACH TO FARM sheds, a cell phone can be on guard to beam videos back home.

One way to do this on the cheap, is to install the Alfred app. It will turn an old cell phone into a motion detection camera, with microphone.

To set it up, install a sim card in a redundant cell phone (about $19). This gives it a connection to the mobile network. Then load a pre-pay card, to provide the monthly data needed to record and send the videos to another cell phone.

The phone can be taped up inside a shed – perhaps looking through a hole inside a shed, with a view towards the fuel bowser. An area that is lit at night, with a sensor light, is ideal to flood the area for clear recording.

The phone will need to be plugged in to power full time, to avoid missing any important moments. It is paired with another device (cell phone, ipad) which will notify of any movement in the view.

Gotcha. Screen shot of a video, captured by the Alfred app.

The basic and free version of the app records and stores videos, up to about 30 seconds. The premium version allows scheduling of when motion detection is turned on/off and it will record longer videos (up to 120 seconds). It also gives high-definition images and zooming of the image. This costs about $50/year.

Tips to get the best picture include setting the device within 15 metres of the zone. Starlings flying into sheds can be a pain but that’s usually a daytime event.

Recordings are stored in the cloud for seven days, and then deleted, so it doesn’t take space on the phone. The phone can be set to continually monitor live sessions in an eight-hour loop. There are around 15 million subscriptions to Alfred worldwide. If a night-time movement is detected, the microphone can be turned on to ‘talk’ to whoever triggered it. This is safer than storming down there in person.

There are rules about collecting video images, especially if the camera is filming an area that is also a public space. On private land, like a farm, make sure there are clear reasons why the surveillance is happening. Tell staff about the camera or place a sign.

Lock it up

Rural insurer FMG reports that between January 2019 and December 2021, there were 73 claims made for theft of fuel from farm properties.

Angela Hogg, Advice Services Manager, FMG, says this is almost 10% of all farm contents theft/burglary claims in this period. Claims peak in February and July, which mirrors the trend with general theft/ burglary claims.

“We expect to see an increase in the costs associated with these claims due to the rising fuel costs,” she says.

A simple lock can deter. A surveillance option is to install an infrared point-to-point perimeter security alarm system, across the main entrance to your property.

Alfred security app: A cellphone, plugged to a power source, can be used as a motion detection camera. 

Stock theft scale unknown

Insurance company FMG estimates theft of livestock costs the rural community $120 million annually. They report that one in four farmers have had stock stolen within the past five years. This can only be described as a guess, as many thefts are not reported to Police.

The Police record prosecutions for animal thefts but don’t distinguish between livestock and non-stock animals, like family pets. Exact figures for stock are unknown.

Insurance doesn’t offer much financial protection. Farmers are typically not covered for theft of livestock from home farm paddocks or grazing blocks.

The policy is not offered, as stock theft is hard to prove and difficult to prevent, making it difficult to insure.

Angela Hogg, Advice Services Manager FMG, said livestock theft claims to FMG from 2019 to 2021 were a very small number.

“This is due to the policy response, where unspecified livestock are not covered for theft from open environments.”

Farmers can get cover for specified high value or stud stock. FMG offers cover for general stock if stolen from a building or yards (not from the paddock). It falls on farmers to try and protect their assets and prevent thefts. FMG recommends stock grazing roadsides should be locked back in the paddock overnight. Roadside gates can have long-pin gudgeons or caps, to make them harder to lift off.

Community policing senior sergeant Alasdair Macmillan said there has been a push on preventing poaching, working with rural groups.

Sharing the meat

MURRAY AND TANYA FROST ARE happy to share meat from their farm, Mt Oliver, if they are asked. This generosity may help discourage local theft and poaching.

Their 200ha dairy farm in Linkwater, Marlborough, backs on to a large area of indigenous forest in the Marlborough Sounds. Deer regularly move out of the bush to graze on the paddocks.

Murray, or his son Troy, are happy to shoot a feral deer, if asked by the community or people who ring them.

“We don’t want to kill to throw away,” Tanya says. They have supplied deer to the Renwick Fire Brigade, to the local hall committee for community events, visiting truck drivers, casual contacts who ask and people in need.

Rather than let people go hunting, the Frosts get the deer themselves.

“This way we know who’s on the property, and the boys like hunting.”

The Frosts gut the deer and can skin it, if required. In return, the Frosts are often offered a koha, typically a box of beer.

“We appreciate this, as a bullet is $5 a pop now.”

The Frosts won the 2021 Farming Award at the Cawthron Marlborough Environment Awards for their work turning around a non-compliant dairy farm.

They have focused on getting the basics right on the farm, Mt Oliver, which they bought 10 years ago and are using technology to improve management.

A new effluent pond gives up to 75 days’ storage, with liquid and solids spread back to develop the paddocks.

Wi-Fi has been boosted from the house, down to the dairy shed and yard area. Tanya says it was the best $1600 she spent.

“It allows staff to load-up data to the iPad, without using phone data, and means our records are a lot better.”

Another advantage is that it can support Wi-Fi security cameras.

When it comes to security, the Frosts’ house is central on the farm and on a hill. This gives a view over most corners of the farm. Although it sits right alongside Kenepuru Road, access to the farm livestock and sheds is past the worker’s house or the homestead.

“It is hard to get on to this farm, for poaching or theft, without being seen.”