As the concept of the ‘Internet of Things’ becomes increasingly prevalent, many systems are being devised to allow all manner of data to be gathered and analysed, and devices controlled via wireless data networks. However, these systems can go beyond applications of a technological nature to be of great benefit to primary producers and agriculture.
Availability of useful data helps make better decisions. One can make informed decisions faster if that data was available in real-time. Let’s consider four areas in the farming arena that can benefit from this technology.
The success of horticulture depends on much more than planting a good quality seed. Apart from monitoring the weather, wireless sensors can be used to monitor soil temperature and moisture, greenhouse temperature and humidity, leaf wetness levels, solar radiation, and rain levels. Real-time data from these sensors can be used to modify crop maintenance procedures from regularly-scheduled to ‘when required’ – saving time and money.
Livestock, especially the expensive breeds that require a higher level of maintenance, must be monitored: for instance, tracking individual animals via a GPS device connected to a local wireless network makes it easy to locate animals in a hurry, or alert the livestock producer if one or more strays too far from home, or if one hasn’t moved during the day, which could either mean an animal has become injured or isn’t getting enough exercise. With RFID technology counting and tracking the animals, individual statistics from birth to sale become faster and simpler.
There are many ways to keep track of assets in the agricultural sector, such as adding GPS tracking devices to expensive machinery; intrusion-monitoring sensors on sheds, gates, pump boxes and greenhouses; ultrasonic motion sensors to detect vehicle movement on remote tracks and access roads; tank water level sensors to detect when the level drops too quickly from a leak or water theft; and closed circuit television cameras that can send images day or night allowing monitoring of any asset of interest.
As water rights are reduced and transport costs increase, monitoring water use and wastage has become crucial. Water levels can be monitored across all storage tanks, and flow sensors can monitor creek and river water movement and speed. Data from soil moisture sensors will allow the system to supply the minimum required for agricultural purposes instead of timed watering sessions. Additionally, automated systems can indicate faults in water supply, tank leaks and irrigation systems before wastage becomes too serious and expensive.
All the sensors and devices mentioned can communicate via wireless networks using WiFI or Zigbee-based technology. For remote situations or multiple-site use these WiFi devices can then communicate via the mobile broadband modems and existing cellular networks. Data can be accessed via the Internet from almost anywhere.
By automating systems and gathering data remotely, one can reduce the time required to stay on top of routine tasks, increase efficient use of expensive resources, and become immediately aware of any problems, providing more time to grow the business.
As a partner, LX Group will discuss and understand the client’s requirements and goals, and help them navigate the various hardware and other options available to help solve their problems.
LX Group is an award-winning electronics design company based in Sydney, Australia specialising in embedded systems design and wireless technologies.