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Manure-Processing Equipment Maker Employs NFC

Nutrient Control Systems is adopting NFC RFID technology to make it easier for farmers and its other customers to access information about its products.
By Claire Swedberg
Jul 29, 2016

This summer, Nutrient Control Systems (NCS) is using radio frequency identification technology to market its agricultural and industrial waste-handling equipment, including the Cri-Man product line of separators, pumps and mixers. By applying Near Field Communication (NFC) RFID tags to the products it sells (initially comprising pumps, mixers and separators on display at trade shows and fairs), the Chambersburg, Pa., company says it will be helping potential users to learn how the systems work in farm operations, and to watch videos and access brochures. In addition, the NCS plans to employ NFC technology later this year to help farmers access operation instructions, or to learn where to order parts or service their machines.

Mobile platform technology company Purple Deck Media, based in Scotland, Pa., provides the NFC tags, as well as software for managing the collected RFID data.

Nutrient Control Systems is attaching an NFC RFID tag to each piece of equipment it sells, such as this Cri-Man screw-press separator, designed to remove liquids from cow manure.
NCS distributes sustainable-agriculture solutions, including the CowFibre Bedding System, by which cow manure is processed in an NCS separator machine. The resulting material can then be used as bedding for cows, thereby reducing the amount of manure waste requiring disposal, as well as the sawdust otherwise used for cattle bedding.

Since the solution is still a new concept for many farmers, much of the company's sales efforts are centered on education and simply making farmers aware that such a solution exists, according to Alyson Kemp, NCS' marketing coordinator. The firm mails out brochures to farmers, and also exhibits its equipment at trade shows. Since the actual process cannot be demonstrated on the show floor, employees must describe the process and direct farmers to online videos.

Kemp had sought new ways in which to engage with potential customers regarding her company's products when she came upon the idea of utilizing NFC technology. Purple Deck Media, a startup based in NCS' local geographic area, had already provided NCS with an app, in March 2016, enabling customers to access videos and other content about the equipment manufacturer's products. Purple Deck Media also offers an NFC-based solution known as TapLive, and Kemp says she intends to use NFC RFID tags at trade shows, beginning next week, before adding them to all products as they are manufactured, as well as retrofitting systems already being used by farmers.

NFC technology makes the entire process more automatic, says Nathan Neil, Purple Deck Media's COO.

Nutrient Control Systems will use its RFID-based system three times during the next few weeks—at the North American Manure Expo, in London, Ohio; Empire Farm Days, in Seneca Falls, N.Y.; and the World Dairy Expo, in Madison, Wisc.

At each show, NCS brings some of its separating equipment onto the floor so potential customers can view it. The company cannot operate the machines at the events, however, since the separators are dewatering presses that require slurry (manure) to be loaded into them as they run in an agricultural or industrial setting. By instead placing an RFID tag made with NXP Semiconductors' NTAG213 chip (compliant with the ISO 14443 standard) on each piece of equipment, Nutrient Control Systems can enable its customers to view videos on their smartphone via the TapLive content-management software platform. Users need only have their phone's NFC functionality activated—they do not need to download an app. When they tap a phone against the NFC RFID tag, it accesses the TapLive software on Purple Deck's server via the internet. The phone's web browser then displays a variety of content options, including a video showing the equipment in use.

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