Spending hours each day driving to the field, starting, stopping, and checking on your center pivot is now a thing of the past. With recent advances in irrigation technology, many growers are taking advantage of equipment that lets them manage their pivots remotely. With the right equipment, you can streamline your operation without missing out on the things that really matter in life – whether it’s dinner with the family or re-investing that time into other areas of your farm. Increasing the efficiency of your operation will not only give you more time, but can also lower labor costs.
Learn the Lingo!
As you leap into the world of irrigation remote control technology, you may hear some unfamiliar lingo. Understanding what specific terms mean will make a big difference when you are selecting technology products. Here are some terms to be familiar with:
App – An app is software that lets you perform a certain task. You can use apps on your computer (known as desktop applications) or on a cell phone or mobile device (these are called mobile apps). In the irrigation control technology world, the app is what you will use to monitor/control your machine.
The Cloud – Cloud computing means you are using the Internet to store, manage, and process data rather than hosting everything on your own computer. This may sound intimidating, but many times the benefits of cloud computing outweigh the risks. Using “the cloud” means you will not have to worry about updating software or whether your computer may crash because everything is stored on a remote server. Working from the cloud makes it much easier to access your data from any mobile device. Most companies that use the cloud use secure servers and have redundancy plans so your data is secure and backed-up, but you can always ask companies about how your data is processed and stored.
Telemetry – This is the sending and receiving of data. Telemetry is how the equipment in the field and the computer or mobile device talk to each other. Many times you will hear the term RTU, or Remote Telemetry Unit. The RTU is what is gathering the data about the position and status of the equipment and sending it through the Internet or cell data to be viewed on your computer or mobile device.
Wi-Fi – Wi-Fi is the Internet connection available wirelessly. With Wi-Fi technology you don’t have to connect to a network via a “hard-wire” or cable to access the Internet.
Monitor – When used with irrigation control technology, this term means you can see different statistics about your machine, but you cannot interact with the machine remotely. For instance, you may be able to see that the machine is running dry, but you may not be able to turn the water on remotely.
Control – This irrigation control technology term means that you can both see and interact with your irrigation equipment. The amount of remote control you have over your machine will vary, so this is definitely something to ask about.
What Control Technologies Do
Many pivot control products now have smartphone apps that give you pivot remote monitoring and control right in your pocket. Much of the software is cloud based, so you can check on your irrigation equipment anytime, anywhere, as long as you have Internet or data access.
Telemetry products communicate differently between the hardware (what’s out in the field) and software (what’s on your desk or in your hand). The way your equipment communicates to your computer or mobile device depends on the setup of your farm and how far each signal will need to be sent. A variety of communication options allows you to tailor your control technology to whatever signal best fits your location and needs. For example, if you have a single machine close to your operation, you may be able to use Wi-Fi. However, if you have a number of machines that span across several counties or states, you will likely need to use radio or cell service. Remember, different communication types have different fees associated with them.
There are many remote control products in the irrigation market today, the key is knowing what you want and how to ask the right questions to get exactly that. With some products, like BaseStation3™ from Valley® Irrigation, you can designate multiple users to monitor or control all or select machines. This is really valuable for operations where multiple people need monitor or control access to different machines. With this tool, you can group and filter machines by location, type, crop, etc. The multiple grouping options and user-control options allow you to assign a particular user to a specific machine or group of machines. With these groups and security levels, a variety of management tools can be tailored to nearly any operation.
Remote monitoring and control products from AgSense® offer multiple ways to view your irrigation equipment, letting you see lists, maps, or machine details. This allows you to select a view that fits your needs. You can also generate reports and export data that you can use to make your irrigation practices more efficient. Having access to historical information about your machines, irrigation, and soil is invaluable when making irrigation decisions.
Getting your irrigation equipment connected to remote control technology lets you make the most of your time and effort. Irrigation control technology is just one small piece of entire farm control that can include viewing irrigation equipment, grain bins, soil moisture and other equipment all at once, from anywhere in the world. Control technologies can be set up to send you notifications when your equipment starts, stops, or experiences an event such as a shutdown. Some control technologies can even be customized to send notifications via text, email, or even a phone call alert. You can also designate what types of notifications to send to specific individuals, if you have multiple users with access to your machines.
What Should I Ask?
If you’re in the market for irrigation control technology on your farm, ask yourself some questions before heading to the dealership. Do I only want to monitor my equipment or do I want to control it as well? What functions do I want to control? Will there be more than one person who needs access to control/monitor my equipment? What other equipment would I like to be able to control on my farm? What devices will I want to use for equipment management? Smartphone? Tablet? Computer? Are my specific devices compatible with the product?
Knowing a little bit about what’s out there and what you want will help you have better discussions with a dealer and will ensure you end up with exactly what you need for your operation. To find out which control technology product will be the best fit for your operation, learn more with the online training courses at www.irrigation.education.