As producers come to fully recognize the opportunities offered by today’s wide-ranging offerings in digital technology for agriculture, an Australian company, FieldMicro, is adding to those possibilities. Last June, the company announced the introduction of its FieldBot remote-sensing and control devices and the SmartFarm online command-and-control, cloud-based system they pair with. Together, they offer a wide range of options for remotely — or autonomously — controlling everything from opening or closing pasture gates to running irrigation pumps.
The FieldBot control and data collection units can be positioned wherever needed on the farm and a built-in solar panel provides the power needed to run them. These units can trigger machines to start or stop without an operator being present. They can even determine when conditions require a machine to run or stop or even a gate to open or close and take the appropriate action autonomously.
To determine what, if any, action is necessary, the FieldBot units are equipped with a 640 x 480-pixel HD camera, and available sensors include temperature, humidity, UV level, air pressure and motion, as well as a highly sensitive microphone to pick up sounds.
Although a microphone may not be something producers imagine when thinking about useful types of sensors for ag, listening for sounds could include monitoring a diesel pump engine or bin aeration fans — and if they stop unexpectedly. The system could be programmed to send a text alert when the sound stops.
That alert would be channeled through the SmartFarm cloud-based command-and-control software platform to a smartphone, tablet or computer. But aside from providing messaging information or live-streaming HD images, SmartFarm’s real value is in its ability to take remote or autonomous control of any machine or device that relies on electric control. It does that by managing the data provided by the FieldBots’ sensors and programming them to send a certain electronic signal to a machine or device based on the conditions they observe.
Reinvent farm management
And any number of FieldBots can be controlled by the platform. They can be linked to a pretty wide variety of farm machines to control them. “Rules can be set for any piece of equipment connected to a FieldBot,” says the company. “Which, in turn, can activate another piece of equipment connected to a different FieldBot.”
Farm operators set the parameters for the FieldBots to initiate an action through the SmartFarm platform. And with the camera and microphone built into the FieldBots, producers can remotely see what the FieldBot sees, and even use that real-time information to make unplanned decisions without actually being there.
That means almost an entire farm could literally be managed without leaving the farm office. A manager or owner can directly control a variety of equipment from an office computer or set up the SmartFarm programming to do it all autonomously, based on the operating parameters set for individual machines or devices. “Capabilities are limited only by the user’s imagination, and are designed to be flexible, user-friendly and simple,” reads the company’s description.
“We are proud to introduce FieldMicro, which allows crop and livestock farmers to upgrade their farms and utilize the latest smart technology to enhance their operations to save time and money,” said Mitch Brownlie, CEO of FieldMicro, in a press release. “With an amazing array of features and technologies, not previously available to farmers, FieldMicro is poised to reinvent farm management and finally bring farming into the 21st Century.”
SmartFarm can also be used to view live or even historical environmental data from any of the FieldBot devices, including rainfall amounts. It can download satellite imaging on a weekly basis, including infrared and radar data. Producers can integrate them with the data uploaded directly from the FieldBots.
To further integrate the FieldMicro system into what digital systems producers may already be using, FieldMicro has partnered with John Deere to provide real-time data direct to the SmartFarm platform. Through the SmartFarm platform users can see the location and other live data from compatible John Deere machines in real time. The telematics information offered by Deere equipment becomes visible on the SmartFarm screen on a producer’s smart device. Instructions can also be sent from the SmartFarm platform to the machines.
SmartFarm will also display the past use of compatible Deere equipment including the path travelled by a machine during a 24-hour period over the previous 60 days, with location, ground speed, heading and machine state information.
The FieldMicro system can operate on a 3G or 4G wireless network. With the purchase of a FieldBot component, the company is offering the first two years of cloud-based SmartFarm access for no extra charge.
The company has a website, fieldmicro.com, that includes product and purchasing information.