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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
Aug 01, 2017

New Zealand agriculture technology company WaterForce is providing an Internet of Things-based water-management and irrigation system for New Zealand farms using sensor technology and software from Schneider Electric, built on a Microsoft Azure and Azure IoT technology platform. The technology, adopted this year by BlackHills Farm, has reduced water consumption by 30 percent, according to Schneider Electric.

The SCADAfarm system consists of a cloud-based software platform that captures and manages data from wireless sensors and weather stations to help the farm view information related to conditions and thereby adjust water use accordingly. Since being taken live, the farm reports, the system has reduced not only water consumption, but also energy costs by 50 percent. With the technology, BlackHills Farm can determine the level of moisture in the soil and air, as well as the water conditions, and adjust the operation of irrigators, pumps and sprinklers for each field of crops.

Schneider Electric provides SCADAfarm with EcoStruxure IoT-connected products and edge control, plus EcoStruxure IoT software to manage data. WaterForce took these interoperable elements, the company reports, and combined them with its own water-management technologies to create a solution intented to help farmers control, monitor and record farm irrigation and wastewater performance, explains Saadi Kermani, Schneider Electric's global business development manager for industrial information and asset management. Schneider began offering its technology for cloud-based farming solutions approximately 18 months ago, Kermani says, and the company has now developed partnerships around the world, including the one with WaterForce that has led to SCADAfarm.

Traditionally, farmers in New Zealand (and in most of the world) have relied on weather forecasts and the physical tracking of conditions when it comes to making decisions about watering. That often leads to over-watering—to ensure that crops never become too dry—which has costly ramifications. Not only is the water itself expensive for farmers, but in many locations (including New Zealand), farmers must meet local government requirements regarding water usage and also be able to prove the water is not running off into the environment. What's more, the environmental impact of overuse of water has global ramifications. Therefore, BlackHills Farm has adopted the precision-farming approach of SCADAfarm to detect, in real time, exactly how much water is needed, as well as when and where.

BlackHills Farm includes more than 400 hectares (988 acres) of land for 2,100 cattle and 800 sheep. The farm grows rapeseed, kale and fodder beet, as well as 70 hectares (173 acres) of green feed crop for its animals. To water those crops, the farm uses a center-pivot irrigation system consisting of motorized equipment measuring 700 meters (2,300 feet) in length, with sections of pipe (equipped with multiple sprinklers) that rotate around a crop to provide watering. Pivots can be controlled remotely.

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