Smart farming is a farm management concept that utilizes modern technology in order to make farming more efficient. Smart farming does not necessarily need an analysis of large data sets or big investments in technology. Huge improvements in efficiency can be made just by implementing sensors to monitor feed and stock levels.
Terabee’s versatile sensor modules are allowing farmers to reap the rewards of “smart” farming with low-cost setups that are innovative, yet simple. In this article, we explore how real-time stock monitoring can not only minimize manpower and time, but reduce waste, enhance safety, and inform data-driven business decisions.
A move towards technology-driven practices in manufacturing and industry means the utilization of networked sensors is predicted to grow.1 The utilization of sensors allows businesses to capture a snapshot of the physical parameters that affect their operation instantly, in addition to enabling automated decision making; from stock level monitoring in manufacturing plants to automated guided vehicles in warehouses.
The interconnection of everyday objects using this approach is known as the Internet of Things (IoT) and is expected to alter the way businesses work throughout the 21st century. The collection of data from embedded sensors, together with in-depth analysis, can allow businesses to optimize decision-making processes.
Farming is the same.2 While agriculture predates most (or, arguably, all) industries, it does not mean it is immune to modern technology. Agriculture is thought to be perfectly suited to large-scale data collection and analysis.
Agricultural equipment and processes are also experiencing big changes in the face of advancing technology: drone technology is being successfully employed for the monitoring of crop health, and in San Francisco, the first self-driving tractors are already plowing the fields.3,4
A big investment in technology such as drones, automated vehicles or data analysis software is not needed for the utilization of modern technology in agriculture. Rather, the strategic implementation of a few networked sensors can supply huge benefits to users just by supplying up-to-date information about animal feed bins, stock levels, and other agricultural silos.
Problems with Visual Stock Level Inspection
Establishing the levels of produce and stocks on farms via visual inspection has a number of challenges and risks, mainly that it can be extremely time-consuming. Manual grain monitoring in silos, animal feed bin level monitoring, milk level monitoring and stock estimation of animal feed in stockpile spaces all take time and so have an associated labor cost.
Often, visual inspection is also inaccurate. An absence of up-to-date, accurate information can have serious consequences when utilized for decision-making regarding stock replenishment.5
Realizing that you are unexpectedly unable to meet customer demand with existing stock or that there is not enough space for an incoming delivery are both problematic scenarios. Replenishing stock too early, before previous material has been used up, can make it hard to store deliveries safely.
On the other hand, unexpected stock depletion can put livestock wellbeing and agricultural production capabilities at risk and can require expensive emergency deliveries. Ineffective utilization of storage spaces and silos increases downtime effectively: an empty silo is one that is not being correctly utilized.
Further to these issues; climbing up to the top of tall silos, hoppers, and bins to carry out level inspections introduces a very real risk of falling and injury to farmers. From 335,000 annual workplace deaths globally, more than half happen in agriculture, making jobs in agriculture the most dangerous jobs in the world.6
Decreasing the requirement for visual silo inspections will see a much-needed improvement to workplace safety for farmworkers.
Versatile Low-Cost Sensors for Stock Level Monitoring
More farms are now developing and deploying IoT measurement devices for smart silo stock estimations in order to minimize these issues. The demand is growing for the most vital component of any IoT system, sensors, because of this.
Terabee has a wide range of low-cost, high-performance sensor modules, with the ability to address a variety of applications within the farming industry. Implementing sensors to monitor stock levels can have big advantages for farms of any size.7
Networking these sensors allows farmers to instantly check the stock levels in all containers at the same time, eliminating any need for visual inspection. This removes the inefficiencies which are associated with a visual inspection, leaving personnel and farmers free to focus on the number of other vital tasks in the running of a farm.
Utilizing sensors to check stock levels has many other advantages, in addition to minimizing inefficiencies and risks to livestock, business, and personnel. Continuous stock level monitoring and logging of data can allow farmers to make the best possible data-driven decisions regarding new equipment purchases, restocking, and other parts of their business.
Scheduling deliveries as efficiently as possible also means transport costs and CO2 emissions due to material delivery are minimized. Sensors can also help to deal with security-related events like leaks in silos which lead levels to drop unexpectedly.
In order to sense distance, Terabee’s sensors utilize Time of Flight (ToF) technology. ToF sensors emit a beam of invisible light and measure the time taken for it to reflect from the surface of the stored material via precise timing circuitry.
Even in dusty environments such as grain silos, this allows the accurate calculation of stock levels in bins, hoppers, and silos of any size.
Advantages of Utilizing Optical ToF Technology
- High-performance in a cost-effective format
- Contactless measurements avoid content contamination
- Focused 2” Field-of-View suited to confined spaces or narrow containers
- Higher performance alternative to ultrasound
- Multi-sensor solutions for monitoring the uneven surface distribution
- A lower-cost alternative to laser and radar
- Long-range measurements (up to 60 m) for taller containers
- An ideal solution for integration and design-in projects
- Low power consumption – ideal for battery devices
Stock Level Monitoring Solutions from Terabee
Terabee provides a wide scope of high-performance and compact level sensors for monitoring stock and fills levels in silos and other containers. These are available today for an evaluation, order, and OEM integration projects – with a market-leading price versus alternative measurement solutions, including radar, ultrasound, and laser.
- Terabee advises its close-range TeraRanger Evo 3m distance sensors for monitoring level in smaller tanks, including milk vats
- The long-range TeraRanger Evo 60m is an ideal choice for bigger and taller silos, including animal feed bins
- The entry-level TeraRanger Evo Mini with its 27-degree Field-of-View is advised for smaller tanks with possible uneven surface distribution
Benefit from Terabee’s deep expertise in mechanical engineering, sensor electronics, and software development to build custom sensing solutions quickly in order to meet your requirements.
Some of the following sensor parameters can be altered: housing (IP6X rated enclosure), communication (e.g. LoRa), power (e.g. integrated battery), data output (e.g. application layers), design (support easy installation).
For partners who are seeking innovation in IoT data monitoring and digital stock management, Terabee engages in PoC projects and pilot programs to enable access to the real potential and advantages of Time-of-Flight technology.
References and Further Reading
- Lu, Y. Industry 4.0: A survey on technologies, applications and open research issues. Journal of Industrial Information Integration 6, 1–10 (2017).
- Aqeel-Ur-Rehman, Abbasi, A. Z., Islam, N. & Shaikh, Z. A. A review of wireless sensors and networks’ applications in agriculture. Comput. Stand. Interfaces 36, 263–270 (2014).
- How High Tech Is Transforming One of the Oldest Jobs: Farming - The New York Times. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/06/business/farming-technology-agriculture.html. (Accessed: 9th March 2020)
- Terabee helps ensure vineyard health with drone-based solution - Terabee. Available at: https://www.terabee.com/teraranger-one-helps-ensure-vineyard-health-with-drone-based-solution/. (Accessed: 9th March 2020)
- Stock Monitoring with Sensor Technology from Terabee. Available at: https://www.terabee.com/silos-are-going-digital-sensors-to-provide-accurate-stock-monitoring/. (Accessed: 9th March 2020)
- Death on the Farm - Modern Farmer. Available at: https://modernfarmer.com/2014/06/farm-deaths/. (Accessed: 9th March 2020)
- Distance Measurment Sensor | TOF Distance Sensor. Available at: https://www.terabee.com/shop/lidar-tof-range-finders/teraranger-one/. (Accessed: 9th March 2020)
This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by Terabee.
For more information on this source, please visit Terabee.