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May 11, 2022
Connectivity isn’t a new idea to Digi International. The Minnesota company may not be known to farmers, yet the company’s tools could very well be on their farms. Recently, the firm wanted to highlight how its partners are using Digi products in innovative ways.
Curt Ahart, vice president for Digi International, discussed its 2022 Green Tech Customer Innovation awards, where there were familiar names to agriculture, but not necessarily familiar products. “We have six business units,” Ahart said. “I’ve worked across most of those units, and I know a lot of our products.”
That knowledge went into selecting this year’s innovators that are using Digi International tech in interesting ways, Ahart said.
The company’s technology often carries the information from a distant location to a central gateway to get it to the cloud. The list of honorees recognized by Digi management came from a range of areas, yet they carried a common theme: communication.
Two companies that may be familiar to farmers are Valmont Industries and Jain Irrigation. However, Valmont wasn’t recognized for its irrigation tech.
Digi worked with Valmont to solve communication problems. “We helped them get to market fast and deal with complexity, particularly on a global basis,” meaning equipment had to work whether it’s in North America or in a sugarcane farm in Brazil, Ahart said.
He noted that Valmont counts on Digi to provide that communication solution. “Our tools allow them to focus on their solution and not have to deal with the complexity, so they can scale their businesses,” he added.
But for this honor, Valmont was recognized for its use of tech in a smart infrastructure application. Ahart said while Valmont is a leader in irrigation equipment, the company is involved in a wide range of industries often related to steel.
In this case, Valmont developed a smart pole technology, essentially turning a pivot unit to be vertical. The end product is a Smart Pole for university campuses that includes a security camera, environmental sensors, an emergency light and a weather station.
Digi’s role with this pole is to be the communication link from a “red alert” button to authorities. But the communication tool, in this case a Digi TX54 Router, also pulled that weather information from the pole to share with the cloud.
That’s just one of the diverse businesses Valmont is in where Digi also plays a role.
And while Valmont was recognized for a totally different part of its business, Jain Irrigation is using Digi tech in agriculture. The company has products for the landscape market, including the Hermit Crab and the SmartBox. In agriculture, the company offers the C3. All of these tools have to communicate with the cloud, sending field data to a location where it can be pulled in and analyzed to manage water use.
The key is reliability. Ahart noted that while farmers may not know what Digi is — being more familiar with Jain or Valmont, or other irrigation companies using its tech — they expect it to work. And over time, Digi has evolved its tools to maximize communication reliability.
The company started with cellular boxes, but now uses Long Range Wireless Area Networks, or LoRaWan tools, and other long-range tools that carry information from distant sensors to those centralized communication gateways, so field data gets to the cloud for farmer management. The company has built its own cloud platform that companies can customize to their needs.
There were six honorees in the program — from a company that makes electric vehicle chargers and relies on Digi tech to handle credit card transactions and remote monitoring of the tools to a firm focused on smart city lighting to another focused on water management.
One non-ag tool that might interest farmers and relies on Digi technology is from Renu Robotics, a firm that has built an autonomous mower to work under solar panel arrays. If you look at a field of solar panels, there’s grass under there, and Renu makes the robot mower that does the job. Digi tools are on board to help manage that daily action and other data transfers, too.
While Digi International may not be a familiar name on the farm, the company is powering innovations in communication to move data from field to the cloud across a range of industries. You can learn more at digi.com.
Willie Vogt has been covering agricultural technology for more than 40 years, with most of that time as editorial director for Farm Progress. He is passionate about helping farmers better understand how technology can help them succeed, when appropriately applied.
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