QFF has teamed up with Enzen Australia (Enzen) and National Narrowband Network Company (NNNCo) to implement a Low Power, Wide Area (LoRaWAN) network technology on two farms in Southeast Queensland and create an internet of things (IoT) solution to cover the end-to-end operations of the properties.
The project partners have been working with farms to learn about the application of technology on farm and to identify potential relationships between data sets.
This article highlights some observations from the project, particularly related to energy consumption and soil moisture.
Energy Monitoring in Real Time
At one of the farms, there are two intensive animal sheds that are the same, with temperature, wind and other climatic controls set at levels within determined parameters except that one has new technology ventilation fans, whilst the other has older fans. The farmer is considering investing in a fan upgrade for the old shed and at the start of the project was keen to check whether the new fans were actually more efficient than the old fans.
The real-time monitoring shows the energy demand on each of the three phases separately for the ventilation systems of the two sheds. It shows that the maximum energy demand of the old fans is consistently around 4kW per phase (reflecting the fixed speed), while the demand of the new fans is generally between 1kW and 1.5kW per phase and is often lower.
The images below are screenshots of energy consumption in the new shed and old shed over a 24 hour period. Note that the scale of the graphs is slightly different as the graph automatically scales to suit the highest reading.
As a result of these insights, the farm has the confidence to invest in new technology ventilation for the old shed.
Next steps for monitoring:
We’ve identified further opportunities for data monitoring: As the newer technology fans have other benefits such as quiet operation, gradual start-up and variable speed; is it possible that they offer improved animal comfort? Could that lead to improved yield or productivity? Could we compare animal growth rate data or productivity in the two sheds to check?
Soil Moisture in real-time.
What is the impact of rainfall and irrigation on soil moisture? How much rainfall do you need at varying intensities to get to the root zone for optimum growth? How does this vary across the farm – such as with different soil types and topography.
Soil moisture can be compared at a number of depths and the below graphs of a fortnight in June 2023 at a site demonstrates daily fluctuations in soil moisture at the three depths indicating water utilisation by the plant more pronounced in the second profile.
Similarly, it is possible to show the changes in soil moisture with rainfall or irrigation as with the same sensor for a week in February 2023.
The same data can then be compared for different parts of the farm to compare localised impacts and variations in soil moisture. The screenshot below compares soil moisture at three depths at two locations on the same farm. It shows that there has been an irrigation event on Block 1 (the top image).
The adoption of new technology in agriculture is a commitment. It takes time to understand new technology and adapt farm management practices to suit.
The next steps for such a project are to continue to work with farms to understand the opportunities that access to complex real-time data presents.