Weather Station and Moisture Probe Options

•    Technology options:

Emmetts AGree offer two options in terms of soil and climate data collection, The John Deere Field connect system and the iMetos Pessel system. The reason for the two options is due to infield compatibility  differences and cost options  which will be outlined in the below information. Both systems are flexible in their data collection sensors and have a platform which can be accessed via smartphone/tablet app or web page, again these are highly adaptable to offer the user more bespoke options to view their data.

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(Pictures above Field Connect)

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  (Pictures above iMetos)

•    What do they do?
Field Connect: 
The field connect system is a John Deere derived soil moisture and weather station system that can be fully adapted to the customer requirements, probe lengths from 0.5m to 1.5m with up to six  sensors depending on the probe, sensors for leaf wetness, soil, air and water temperatures, solar radiation and precipitation. The installation in picture 1 was for a pivot system where two measuring points were set up, one within the first span and the second within the outer span. Each had a 1m probe, tipping rain gauge, temperature sensor and wireless node. Both sent data back to a central control box (shown in the picture) which was located at the centre point. This unit consisted of the main box, a wireless node, aerial and a weather station picking up ambient air temperature, wind speed, direction and humidity. All this data was then sent via a cellular link to the cloud based field connect site which can be accessed from the customers My John Deere log in, on a smart phone or tablet.

 iMetos Pessl:
The iMetos system by Pessl instruments is a fully adaptable moisture probe and weather monitoring unit. There are a number of probe options with adaptable sensors, the triscan offers soil moisture, temperature and salinity within the ‘drill and drop’ probe model. This is available in 30, 60, 90 or 120cm lengths with sensors every 10cms. The climate data options are numerous with the system offering sensors to measure in crop canopy parameters such as temperatures and leaf wetness. The field climate options offer an array of sensors for wind, light, wet and dry bulb temperatures, precipitation and remote crop imagery. The picture 2 shows a basic system installed in a melon crop and vineyard, the probe is connected remotely using an eco D3 node which sends data back to an iMetos 3.3 environmental monitoring system. This has wind speed, precipitation, air temperature, relative humidity, leaf wetness and global radiation sensors all collecting data. Once set up the data is sent via cellular link to a cloud based site which is fully adaptable for the grower, this can then be viewed on smartphones, tablets or any web based platform. The additional features of this system compared to the Field Connect option is the development of weather forecasting and disease modelling. These utilise the data sourced not only from the units in the field but other local stations and meteorology bureau data to produce forecasts and crop specific alerts to growers.

•    Cost of technology:
None of this equipment can be considered low in value, however the consideration of value for money can ensure a system that meets the requirements for the grower. 

The Field Connect options have reduced in cost since its release, however it is still quite pricy. The system shown in photo 1 with the two probes stations and the weather station at the centre point has a value in the region of $4000 for each probe station and $5500 for the weather station gateway. So all in all $13,500 hardware costs, the subscription can be paid either in three six or 12 month blocks at a value of approximately $1000pa. This covers all the cellular connection and data supply portal for the gateway which can host up to eight probes within a 1.5km radius.

The iMetos system has a different cost structure in comparison to the Field Connect in that it is highly adaptable so in reality it is possible to simplify the system to meet growers budgets. The wireless probe stations with triscan drill and drop probes range from $1,000 to $2,500 depending on the probe length with a radio node costing $780 per probe. This then feeds back to the weather station as shown in picture 2 which costs $4,700 and can handle up to sixteen probes within a 1.5km radius. So for a modest system as shown in picture 2 the hardware costs can be in the region of $7,500. The subscription costs for the system including the disease modelling are $255 per station per user per year, however depending on the number of different crop types and stations this cost will alter slightly. In addition a data sim card needs to be purchased from a suitable telecommunications provider to the area.

•    Accessibility: 
All this equipment is sold and supported by Emmetts/Agree throughout the Victorian and South Australian branches. The sensors and majority of hardware for the iMetos system is produced by Scentec Industries in Adelaide., wheras the Field connect system is available through the majority of John Deere dealers. So for availability of information and parts neither system is lacking.

•    Installation: 
Both of these systems have specific installation equipment which can either be purchased or Emmetts/Agree trained staff will install the system and maintain it for a fee. The installation hardware for both systems really only consists of a soil auger system for the probes and a place to attach the weather station to, which can be a pole or post which ever is convenient for the crop specific installation. The time scales depend on the complexity of the system however most single probe systems can be up and running in two to three hours.
  

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Imetos probe installation                                                     Field Connect Probe installation

With consideration for location, management and enterprise compatibility, both of these systems need careful consideration before purchasing to ensure they meet the demands of the grower on all levels. Farm operations such as harvesting, planting, spraying and cultivations all have an affect on where and how these systems are installed. The probes themselves protrude above or at best are level with the ground and do have wires attaching them to their wireless nodes, these in themselves do not make it convenient for ground engaging equipment. It is wise to remove the probes for these operations, which for short season crops in the horticultural industry makes sense, however in broad acre should be a consideration for system compatibility. The locations of the central weather station or gateway due to their wireless options can mean that they have a more permanent place for installation, however for long season/perennial crops they may be in the way for harvesting or spraying operations due to their location in the row or protruding above the crop. 

Like most monitoring systems there is a level of management required to ensure accurate data is collected. This is particularly important in fast growing vegetative crops where rain gauges and light sensors can soon become overgrown, or wildlife has a tendency to chew or peck at wires. For this reason it is important to look at the system once a week to ensure nature has not interfered with any of the data collection systems. Saying this if the intended installation is into a grazing system careful consideration should be taken as to how the system is installed since livestock have a tendency to destroy anything above ground unless it is either high enough or strong enough. Both the field connect and the iMetos are suitable for grazing systems, however prior to purchasing, hardware and installation methods should be considered carefully.

    Accuracy/Precision: 
The accuracy of any system like this is dependent on the install and maintenance of the sensing hardware. Once installed probes in particular need time to settle before accurate data can be drawn from the sensors. Depending on the soil type and method of installation this can be from a matter of 24 hours to a week. The drill and drop system is a dry installed probe which tends to settle quicker and viable data can be gathered within 24-48 hours. The field connect however is a wet install, requiring soil slurry to help seat the probe, this kind of system requires longer before accurate data can be drawn from the readings. The sensors themselves for both systems are all either Sentec manufactured or designed sensors for the probes.

•    Data accessibility, formatting, Interface and compatibility:
The field Connect and the iMetos systems both use a cloud base platform for presenting the data from the field sensors. These can be accessed via PC, smartphone or Tablet with complementary apps which work via IOS or Android systems. This data is sent from the gateway at intervals which can be selected by the grower, iMetos updates data from the wireless systems every 15 minutes and Field Connect every 30 minutes to the gateway which is stored on the data logger before being sent to the cloud. 

The data itself is presented in a format that can be specific to the grower requirements, the changeable parameters on the data are items such a units, timescales, which sensors to compare/select and many more options which needs to demonstrated to fully understand how bespoke the data delivery can be. 
 

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Field Connect platform picutre above
 

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iMetos Data Platform picture above

The two examples above show a snap shot of how this data can be presented on a PC or tablet, individual data points can be selected to draw down to specific times or events enabling a grower to pinpoint areas for further investigation or management. The app options allow for the disease modelling and forecasting with iMetos, field connect allows for alerts to be set up should data points range outside grower set parameters.

•    Strengths and Weaknesses:
Both these systems have adaptability for user requirements and allow for additional development through hardware and software interface. The Field Connect system comes with the John Deere name and all that is synonymous with what it means to people within the industry. The limitation of not having salinity and temperature suits some users who are only chasing the basics. The user interface works is easy to read, alter and understand enabling growers to utilise a simpler system which still gives good accurate information.
The iMetos system has more adaptability for the field, which offers the grower a greater amount of information with the added option of crop specific disease modelling and weather forecasting. The user interface can look more confusing however once mastered becomes a very informative platform.

Both systems are great tools to optimise data for crop input and monitoring. The use of moisture probes with temperature and salinity sensors is becoming more wide spread as the importance of soil health and crop nutrition becomes more apparent.

For more information on these systems please go to:
http://metos.at/home/
https://fieldconnect.deere.com
Or contact your local Emmetts John Deere dealer.
 

GRDC Releases Case Study Report on Adoption of Variable Rate Technology


The GRDC has recently released a report outlining the benefits Western WA growers have captured through their use of variable rate technology, “Variable Rate Technology – Is It For Me?”. 
 
The Emmetts PA department and Agree have been helping growers to utilise their technology, and move through the adoption process of Precision Agriculture. By analysing mapping layers including elevation, yield and imagery (NDVI satellite and UAV) in conjunction with sampling data, creation of variable rate prescription maps is possible to target inputs for optimisation of yield and margins. 

The GRDC report is unbiased in relation to the barriers faced when adopting technology. As stated in the report, ‘Precision Agriculture and the use of Variable Rate Technology seems to be the next progressive step growers are looking at,  to improve their profitability.’  Some barriers outlined are ‘the expense of getting new machinery, paying for expert support,  difficulty understanding the technology, access to technical support and the amount of time needed to learn and implement the technology.’
Although all legitimate barriers, Emmetts are dedicated to supporting growers in overcoming these common barriers through the implementation of Agree and its consultants
 

 Photo sourced from: https://au.pinterest.com/pin/316448311289440608/

Photo sourced from: https://au.pinterest.com/pin/316448311289440608/

Geographical Information Systems (GIS) is the software that stores, manages, and allows you to manipulate spacial and temporal data, for use in future decisions. This is the common link between your machines and data enabling utilisation and a positive return on capital investment. Many operators choose to have a range of machines with different brands and ages. The major technology issue here, is many of these brands do not run the same in cab software or hardware to collect and use data, resulting in operator confusion and systems that are in effect incompatible within the direct methods of transferring  and optimising data. This is where the utilisation of third party GIS software such as SST and Farm Sat to effectively become a hub for data management has become a key link in precision farming. The next major stumbling block comes in obtaining a common system across all machines on the farm to ease operator utilisation and training. John Deere have a platform that is compatible across most brands of farm equipment enabling familiarisation for operators and ease of data management for managers.

There is a great deal of data in the form of yield collected over a number of years out on farms, which to date has had no real benefit to the property in both management decisions and financial returns. Much of it is inaccurate due to set up issues at harvest or corruption through software, resulting in its use being limited for decision making particularly in management zone creation. This inaccurate data has lead to a reduced confidence in its use which is where Agree can help to restore this confidence.

A great suggestion offered in the GRDC report, is for first time adopters to try new equipment out when applying top dressing mid year, to get a handle on the operation of it, when time is not an issue.  Running it for the first time at sowing without a support team, may add a significant level of pressure.

The report "Variable Rate Technology - Is It For Me?"  can be found at, https://grdc.com.au/resources-and-publications/all-publications/publications/2017/03/variable-rate-technology-maximising-returns-for-western-australian-grain-production

The case studies are great and highlight various levels of adoption, machinery used, and issues encountered.

 

 

 

 

GRDC Recommends PreDicta B Soil Test Due to Wet Conditions in 2016

The GRDC has put out a great newsletter for the Southern Region regarding the risk to 2017 crops roots and crowns from the wet season South Australia and Victoria experienced in 2016.  The GRDC recommends that producers should test for soil-borne diseases. particularly those "growers contemplating growing wheat in paddocks following cereals or grassy pastures should consider using a PreDicta B®" to test for risks to roots and crowns.

The risks include: Take-all, Crown rot, Root lesion nematode, Rhizoctonia, Cereal cyst nematode.

Article can be found at: http://mail.grdcsubscribers.com.au/lz/lz.aspx?p1=0596961S4777&CC=&p=0

AGree Decision Ag by Emmetts Agronomists can conduct the PreDicta B® tests for you, contact Richard Sawyer at 0419 480 063, or Paul McClure at 0407 874 232.

 Photo from: www.agric.wa.gov.au.

Photo from: www.agric.wa.gov.au.

Field connect unit in potato pivot season completed.

Written by : Richard Sawyer

The John Deere trial Field Connect moisture and climate monitoring unit was finally removed on 23rd February from the potato pivot following a crop season trial. This unit was installed in mid November after crop emergence and the banks had been pulled up. Unlike previous uses of this equipment we coincided this with trialling John Deere’s wireless nodes, eliminating the need for the installation of cables and enabling a probe to be installed within the first and last span of the pivot.

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Each monitoring site consisted of a 0.5m probe and rain gauge with the addition of specific sensors on each site. The inner site had temperature and humidity sensors while the outer site had the addition of a leaf wetness sensor.

 

Overall the system worked well providing some valuable data regarding crop use, infiltration rates, drawdown periods following hot weather and watering accuracy across the pivot. The clients were able to visualise and analyse the data remotely from offices both locally and regionally on the web based portal. Due to the distances and remoteness of this operation the ability to access the data in this way made the Field Connect Unit a useful farm management tool.

 

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The trial did not go without its hitches, we found due to rapid canopy growth shading the rain gauges, creating the need to raise them every two to three weeks in the peak growth period. The initial set up was fiddly however once all connected the units ran without a hitch. Future improvements will be to ensure constant power supply to the host node through the solar panel and to mount the monitors onto a frame that can easily be raised or lowered to keep at the correct height.

 

For more information and to look at options for your crop please contact Richard Sawyer or Matt Burns at Emmetts. By email Richard.sawyer@emmetts.com.aumburns@emmetts.com.au .

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Precision Viticulture Applications - Riverland SPAA Event Attended

December 3, 2016

Written by: Richard Sawyer

We attended a new event in the SPAA (Society of Precision Agriculture Australia) calendar for precision viticulture applications held in the Riverland this week. The turnout was encouraging with many people looking to learn how they can implement technology into their management practices for more informed decision making. Drones and crop imagery made up a considerable percentage of the day, the Emmetts Precision Ag. Solution team were able to demonstrate the simplistic capabilities and image capturing abilities of the drone they use for customer applications. Other demonstrations included smart phone apps and go pro data for yield predictions, 3D image capturing of vines to assess health, vigour and yield potentials and Greenseeker imagery for NDVI showing plant stress situations.

 

The speakers discussed the use of data and map imagery for yield, disease, watering and infrastructure applications, all helping to lead to more informed decisions and greater profitability.

 

The general theme for all of this technology across broadacre, horticulture and viticulture is that from a good base of soil type, elevation and soil testing a picture for the season can be built up with imagery and finally yield data to create accurate zones for crop management. This can be for irrigation planning or vine planting using water flow predictions, for nutrient applications based on testing poorer areas detected by imagery or disease monitoring through the season. However, all of these systems rely on ground inspections by the human eye, but by using the technology efficiently and effectively the decision as to where to look are more informed, therefore saving time in the field.

 

If you require more information or would like a demonstration on drones, imagery or the use of precision technology please contact Emmetts Precision AG team, www.emmetts.com.au/contact.