Ag tech, what you need to know
So, you're thinking of getting into ag tech, but want to know where to start? Often one of the starting points is the price – how much will this cost me upfront, and what's the ongoing cost, or how much will this save me in the long run? While these are fundamental questions and will impact your decision to invest or not, here are six points to consider. These should help you make a more informed decision and get the most out of your ag tech.
1. The why – what do you want to achieve from your ag tech?
How are you planning to use it? Simple applications such as remote management to monitor electric fences or water points to save travel time? Or more complex, such as accurately predicting where in your electric fence the fault is occurring. Clearly defining your aim will help you identify what technologies you need.
2. Do your research
What type of device best suits the job at hand? Research various products, such as the difference between ultrasonic sensors and pressure probes. For example, if using these for monitoring the water level in a tank, the ultrasonic sensor measures the distance to the water level but, in a closed top tank in summer, the humidity in the tank can give you a false reading, so a pressure probe might be a better option.
Accurately mapping the number of devices or sensors is important, as this may change depending on your farm terrain or the information required.
You need to be prepared to invest in your own network to make the system work, depending on your farm terrain or service providers in your area.
The other consideration is how accessible is your data? What is the dashboard like, is it in a user-friendly format and can you integrate it to meet your needs? Can you share your data with third parties, your agronomist for example?
When setting up your networks or devices, you need to consider:
- network coverage
- protecting devices from damage (livestock, wildlife and machinery)
- location (wind direction, orientation, height)
- manufacturer recommendations such as depth, positioning and maintenance.
4. Established or emerging company or product?
One critical consideration is the after-sales service. How much does this support cost, where is the support located, is it online or are company representatives available to come to your farm? While established companies might have years of experience and have solutions and procedures to solve issues in place, emerging companies are often motivated to find solutions, to improve their service or product.
5. Power and data management
Remote sensors access power in three ways:
- mains power.
Understanding the options available and the requirements of each are important. Their reliance on power is usually dependant on the amount of data sent; it is essential to weigh up the options with additional considerations such as cabling for mains and solar, and access limitations for changing the battery.
6. Maintenance – plug and play but not walk away!
With any system on the farm, there will be a level of maintenance required, but how much and how often. For example, ants frequently colonise electrical boxes, therefore the boxes need to be sealed sufficiently. Consider if you need to check them often, and if you need special tools or a technician to do the maintenance?