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New Zealand Farm Cuts Water and Energy Consumption With IoT

WaterForce's SCADAfarm system, using Schneider Electric technology, allows cattle, sheep and vegetable producer BlackHills Farm to remotely monitor the watering level and conditions of crops, in order to provide the correct amount of water at every location at all times.
By Claire Swedberg

The farm was able to retrofit its existing pivots with SCADAfarm flow sensors to measure the flow of water passing through them, and it installed sensors in the soil to detect moisture levels. The sensors send that information, via a cellular connection using a Vodafone communication service, to the nearby computer gateway, which pushes the data onto a cloud-based server. There, SCADAfarms software interprets and displays the data for the farm, along with weather-based data from a Schneider Electric weather station.

The farm can then adjust the use of pumps feeding water from a nearby river to a retaining pond, or from the pond to the pivots, based on anticipated demands. The technology enables the farm to start or stop individual pivots, as well as change their speed or the direction in which they move, via a PC or mobile phone. The weather data can also be used to ensure safety. For instance, in the case of high wind measurements, the pivots can be remotely moved so that they do not receive the full impact from the wind or pose a potential for wind-related accidents.

By combining data from the sensors and weather station, Kermani says, the farm can begin making intelligent choices. For instance, he notes, "If you know it's going to rain, the reservoir doesn't have to be as high," which means the pump may not need to run for as long, thereby saving energy and water.

In the long run, Kermani says, the technology can provide analytics that can help the industry as a whole. For instance, the data can be linked to crop yields, and thereby enable analytics regarding how much water is needed for specific results, such as the amount of water that will result in a pound of beef or a gallon of milk. The solution not only reduces the amount of water used, but also saves labor for farm workers who otherwise would need to drive to field sites to monitor conditions and inspect their crops.

Schneider Electric is currently speaking with several partners in other parts of the world, as well as end-user farmers who are interested in piloting or deploying the technology for water and irrigation management in their own operations.

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