Old McDonald Had a Miniserver – Farm Automation!

Philipp Schuster
27th September 2013 in Case Studies

The idea of automated farming and agriculture has been with us for a little while now. But the truly ‘Smart’ farm that’s not only automated but intelligent and controllable remotely is a pretty new one. In fact, we think we may have just invented it! Installing a Miniserver for full farm automation can have a multitude of advantages – some of the principles of which can be applied to non-farm environments. Let’s go E-I-E-I-Over to a farm controlled by Loxone to investigate six great features, shall we…?

The following can be found in the Smart Farm:

THE FEATURES:

No Touch of Frost

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For an uninterrupted water supply even in the coldest temperatures, the Miniserver can help.

To stop water in any of the pipes freezing, when the temperature outside hits 5°C, the circulation pump is activated to get some movement – so as not to allow any freezing of water. At 0°C, an ‘anti-freeze’ heater is switched on automatically and an email is sent to the farm owner alerting him of the possibility of frost so that he can check that everything’s as it should be.

CLEANING UP

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You don’t need to have worked on a farm to know that, with that many animals in one place, there’s a lot of ‘waste’ produced. In fact, there’s so much that slurry pumps are often installed to remove it at regular intervals. So naturally, at the Smart Farm, the Miniserver looks after this. The app/web interface also gives the farmer(s) the opportunity to monitor slurry levels and activate drainage manually.

Compacted slurry in the drainage pumps can be damaging to the equipment. That’s why diluting the manure can be quite important. And it’s also why there’s a nice little feature set up whereby rainwater is automatically added, with the valve managed by Loxone. Should something go wrong and the slurry pipes stop working, an email is sent to an allocated email address.

RAINING COWS AND DUCKS

If the rainwater tank level indicator falls below a certain threshold, an email alert is sent automatically. This serves as a notice that water will have to be manually added to the slurry.

THE PERFECT TEMPERATURE

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The cattle barn on the farm has temperature sensors installed both inside and outside. If the internal temperature hits 26°C and that exceeds the external temperature, the windows will open by themselves to provide cooling. There’s also a wind sensor set up as well, monitoring wind speed. When it’s warm and the windows have opened, but the wind is quite strong and likely to blow a real breeze into the barn, the windows will close again!

CATTLE CAM

Cattle Cam

When a new heifer joins the other cattle in the barn, they can be quite scatter-y and nervy at first. It’s important to make sure that they are as comfortable, relaxed and integrated as possible. It’s pretty impractical in a farmer’s busy day to keep going in and checking on any new arrivals, so the ‘surveillance’ comes in especially handy here.

SMART BARN LIGHTING

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All the light switches in and around the stables have been configured with single, double and long-press clicks. Just the one click will turn on lights in that area. A double click will turn all lights on across the stable, not just in that area. And triple clicking enables the Central Function and turn all lights out in the stables immediately.

The farmers have been so impressed with having these things automated that they’re now planning bigger and better things. Next on the agenda is automated animal feeding. Basically where feed machines can be controlled remotely and food levels monitored. It’d be totally risk-free too – any low levels or blockages or malfunctions would again see the farmers be notified by email or phone call.


Are you a farmer who fancies the idea of smartening up things? Feel free to get in touch with us or contact your local partner now!