Enabling Internet of Things Innovation in Agriculture
DigiBale, a commercial subsidiary of Australian Wool Innovation (AWI), takes technology know-how and IP from implementations successfully applied to the sheep farming and wool industry and makes it accessible to other agriculture sectors including cotton, forestry, sugarcane and cattle.
DigiBale has been part of AWI for years as the group tasked with delivering software and hardware projects, such as an automation project for wool growers. AWI and DigiBale saw the opportunity to distribute the system outside of the world of wool growing.
Farmers and growers span a number of industries-- all with their own specific business processes. Even though DigiBale knew the wool project offered a great footprint, they also knew there could not be a one-size-fits-all solution for farmers and growers.
“We’ve had so many discussions with farmers and growers. They have really great ideas, but they worry that stepping into the world of connected technology would take them too far away from their core competency,” explained Marcus Majass, DigiBale Solutions Architect. “But, there are several forward thinking farmers who want to build products.”
DigiBale set out on a mission to show farmers and growers how easy it is to work with technologies that can bring ideas to life more simply than imagined.
While there’s no one-size fits all solution, DigiBale could take the foundational communications system they’d experienced success with to create and offer a Farm Automation Starter Kit that can be used for an endless number of applications.
The kit includes ConnectPort X2 Gateway, three Digi XBee-PRO 900HP modules, a subscription to Device Cloud and a smartphone application. Its an ideal setup for creating a mid-sized mesh network that provides accurate soil moisture measurements and converts two electrical devices into automated and remotely managed devices.
It enables farmers and growers to setup a system with simple scheduling and activation configuration to devices and access to statistics and activity history of all sensors and devices.
The XBee-PRO 900HP allows for wireless connection between devices through a mesh network. The ConnectPort X2 Gatewat collects data from the XBee modules and sends it to Device Cloud. Device Cloud then delivers the information to the smartphone application.
“Here at Digibale we often work on projects with Aussie farmers. When it comes to the outback, it’s always far from Internet and powerlines. All we have is a lot of open space and sun,” explained Majass. “Digi’s technology is ideal for these conditions—low power for solar, long range to cover vast distances and robust hardware that just works.”
Farmers can purchase the starter kit for AU $699. With the kit, they can test and refine their idea.
“Farmers and growers can get the kit and innovate with it to see what’s possible. They can test out their ideas. Then, they can work with DigiBale to build a full working model of the product. The kit enables several different products to be created,” Majass said.
The automation kit has given a number of agriculture customers a basic communication platform to bring their own Internet of Things ideas to life.
“Automation and mobile solutions to farmers makes the working lives of farmers much easier. This system provides them with data they’ve never had access to before, which can be used to run a more productive farm.”
Some of the ideas that have been brought to life in just the first couple of months of availability include:
- One sugarcane customer monitored soil for irrigation purposes. This idea is now being fully developed into a working model.
- In the cattle industry, a company that works with over 300 farms uses the kit to automate trough refills so farmers do not need to manually check water and food levels.
- A company that distributes crop fertilizer uses the kit to measure the amount of fertilizer across crops. Traditionally, crop dusting has been solely dependent on a pilot’s flying experience. With the starter kit, sensors are placed in the ground. Information collected from the sensors is sent to a virtual map in the cockpit via the cloud, guiding the pilot in real-time.
DigiBale is taking on the farming industry’s biggest challenges and helps the farmers and growers who know their businesses best to build Internet of Things solutions. When it comes to attacking these challenges, DigiBale is truly a wolf in sheep’s clothing.