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In March 2017 Pylot approached a private sugar grower on the northern KZN coast, to do a trial with one of the new low power communications networks (Ingenu). The trial was to prove the efficiency and reliability of the network, as well as to provide a user friendly interface for the grower to view meaningful data. It was agreed to gather data on a recently installed centre pivot irrigation area, and to install the following collection devices :
A single Ingenu RPMA access point (base station) was installed at the farmers workshop, located approximately in the centre of the farm. After installation, random signal strength tests were done around the farm. Basically the network was visible from all areas of the farm, with distances up to 12km away.
Since tha activation of the RPMA accesss point on 20 July there has been no network failure, packet loss nor downtime. The Ingenu RPMA network has proven to be extremely reliable with good signal coverage across a wide area.
Two types of soil moisture probes were used for testing - the SASRI approved Decagon sensor, as well as a Vegetronix soil moisture sensor. Digital rain gauges with 1% accuracy were installed as well as water level sensors capable of 0.1% accuracy across a 3 metre range. All devices were connected to the Ingenu wireless network using Pylot's Ingenu designed modems.
One modem was connected to the soft starter of the centre pivot pumps to be able to indicate when the pumps were running. This information could then be dsplayed on the management portal
The data collected from the devices has proved accurate and reliable. It took about 6 weeks for the soil moisture probes to stabilise, at which point both the Decagon and Vegtronix units reported values within 1% of each other.
The Pylot Portal was customised to provide a mangement inteface to suit agricultural applications, with a summarised, customisable dashboard view as well as more detailed views for pulling reports as welll as being able to view the farm in a more meaningful graphical representation.
An additional element was added to the mobile app where the farmer could assign task tickets to staff as and when an action item was discovered on the farm. As an example, if the farmer notices a leak in a pipe he/she can open the app, take a picture of the pipe, make a note (or voice note) and assign a task to the irrigation manager. The app will save the GPS location so the irrigation manager knows exactly where the pipe leak can be found.
The pilot project was succesfully completed in September, and an area of the farm was allocated to roll out the first production phase of the solution. This will include the monitoring of pump status (on/off), soil moisture, centre pivot GPS location, rain gauges as well as automating and controlling solenoid driven valves and Netafim flush bank units.
Pylot looks forward to rolling the solution out to all areas of the farm that will benefit from more accuate measurement and control, helping the grower reduce costs and increase yield.