Agriculture is a tough business. Big swings in temperature and humidity, for example, take their toll on commodities and equipment. Farms and ranches often span thousands of hectares, making it time-consuming to keep tabs on every far-flung aspect of their operations.
How farmers, ranchers and others respond to these challenges directly affects their competitiveness, profit margins and ability to stay in business. That’s why they’re increasingly turning to mobile technology and the Internet of Things (IoT).
A prime example is the silos used to store feed, wood pellets and other biomass. Farmers typically inspect silo levels manually to avoid running out. The larger the operation, the more time-consuming that task becomes. Time is money.
Another set of costs relates to how biomass stocks are replenished. Farmers and other buyers traditionally place their orders manually, such as over the phone, while suppliers usually require them to take delivery within 24 hours. It’s an inefficient, almost emergency-order fulfilment process — one that costs everyone involved over €2 billion globally per year.
Installing IoT sensors in silos seems like an ideal way to get instant, remote access to the information about the stock level in each one. This data also could be fed into a system that emails an alert when the level reaches a certain threshold. That automation would free users to focus on other tasks.
The catch? When companies have developed these kinds of systems, the sensors were the weak link. Dust from the biomass quickly clogged them until they stopped functioning.
Unclogging the Data Flow
LvLogics solved that problem by equipping its sensors with a self-cleaning mechanism — one with no moving parts to wear out. The sensor is mounted at the top of the silo and can monitor silos up to 40m tall. Housed in an IP67 enclosure for additional protection against the elements, the sensors are millimetre accurate, and their readings provide +/- 5% percent of silo volume resolution. More and more feed mills are using sensors to provide real-time readings of raw materials and finished product as they are a fraction of the cost of traditional loadcells.
These benefits don’t come with a big price tag, either. Alternative products that use traditional methods such as load cells, radar, guided radar or capacitive measurement cost about 6-8 times more than the LvLogics solution or about €2.5k-€12K per silo. They also are difficult to install, further increasing their cost.
This design breakthrough paved the way for a turnkey solution where the sensors transmit their data over to an intuitive, dashboard-style software platform for managing devices, tracking data and more. LvLogics partnered with Taoglas, which provided two key components of the solution:
- Each LvLogics sensor has the Taoglas® EDGE™ Connect hardware inside, which supports all of the world’s most widely used mobile network technologies: 2G, 3G and 4G LTE, including Cat-M and NB-IoT. The products ultra low power hardware allows for years of maintenance-free service and provides real-time automation and insights.
- EDGE Connect works with Taoglas® EDGE Insights™, a cloud-based management platform, to collect sensor data and present it in ways that employees can easily analyze and act on. Available on a hosted, pay-as-you-go basis, EDGE Insights also provides a variety of tools for remotely provisioning, troubleshooting and managing each device, including turning sensors on and off, updating firmware, enforcing security policies and more.
Users can choose how often they want each silo’s level logged, from every 60 seconds to every 100 hours. Levels also can be reported by the tonne or as a percentage of the silo’s capacity.
An Award-Winning, “Breakthrough Solution”
Powered by Taoglas, the LvLogics solution enables users to streamline their workflows and eliminates the expense of panic orders. This efficiency directly benefits their margins and bottom line.
The real-time insights also eliminate the need for employees to climb each silo to check its level. Besides saving money, this automation also eliminates the risk of injury or death that come with manual inspection.
Finally, the solution also helps improve biomass quality by monitoring the humidity and temperature in silos. This minimizes waste, saving even more money.
In fact, the solution has such an immediate dramatic business impact that it’s won multiple awards. In the 2020 Fierce Innovation Awards – Telecom Edition, Taoglas and LvLogics were announced as the winner in the IoT category. Judged by executives from major telecommunications companies and analysts including T-Mobile, Telia Carrier AB, Recon Analytics, iGR, Mobile Ecosystem, Mobile Experts, Inc., Senza Fili and Futuriom, the solution won for its ease of use/ROI, effectiveness, technical innovation, competitive advantage and financial impact.
In January 2021, the solution was named the “Smart Agriculture Solution of the Year” in the 5th annual IoT Breakthrough Awards program. “Using advanced smart sensor technology in the silo is providing a ‘breakthrough’ solution in the agriculture industry that presents billions of dollars in potential savings,” says James Johnson, managing director of IoT Breakthrough, a market intelligence firm. “The Taoglas EDGE IoT platform serves as an effective, fast and easy-to-use wireless platform for IoT, and this combined LvLogics solution is a powerful innovation. Their work is both critically important and incredibly unique, and we are thrilled to recognize their tremendous achievement.”
Visit https://lvlogics.com/ for details on the self-cleaning smart sensor. For more information regarding the Taoglas® EDGE IoT hardware and software platform, visit https://www.taoglas.com/iot-solutions/.