The concept of the “internet of things” has value for the farm, especially for irrigation operations looking to improve water use. The key is finding a sensor or system that offers information in a format that can help maximize what you do on the farm.
Arable Labs, a San Francisco-based startup, launched its original Mark 1 sensor a few years ago, offering farmers a platform for measuring weather and analyzing plant health. It’s a potent decision-making tool that can report in real time what’s happening in the field. And it just got an upgrade.
From the floor of Agritechnica, Adam Wolf explains the changes made to the sensor. “We changed to a new battery system that works in a wider temperature range,” he says. “It will store a charge at ‒40 degrees F. It will maintain a charge in the winter.” Wolf is chief scientist at Arable.
Wolf notes that in the world of the internet of things, having a good battery can make a difference.
This sensor, which measures weather — including rainfall — with no moving parts, is more precise on that score, too. Wolf explains that the system that measures moisture has been modified. “We want to better track misting, which is a challenge,” he says. “Even tipping buckets have trouble with that.” This will enhance the sensor’s accuracy in tracking rainfall events.
The coating on the outside of the unit has been changed to a nanocoating designed to block ultraviolet light, which can break down material. “We expect two times the life of the original,” he says.
New connection standard
Perhaps the biggest news is the network connection the Mark 2 is using. Farmers know that cellular service can be a sometime thing in the country. With data transfer, it’s even more challenging.
The Mark 2 now uses a version of LTE called Cat M1-LTE M. “This is a new standard under LTE,” Wolf explains.
He says if you’re streaming a television show over a cell connection and you drop a frame or two, it’s not a problem. That’s not true with data. This new standard is designed to check data packets more than 20 times a minute for accuracy. And the standard is designed to provide quality connection over great distances.
“We can reach a tower more than 20 kilometers away,” he says. “We’ve used the standard in Brazil, where connectivity is a problem.
Jim Ethington, CEO, Arable, adds that the Mark 2 also connects to a more robust mobile application that captures soil moisture and wind speed, and measures crop health. It is the first weather device with the extended LTE M1 standard, but it also uses 2G coverage, too.
Arable has been in the market for a while, and it has an application program interface (API) that now connects the service to more than 50 other data companies and systems. That means information gathered can be shared to other platforms as needed. “We’re giving the farmer better control for use of their data,” Ethington says.
Adds Wolf: “The API allows the farmer to decide how and where to share the data. They could give part to Xarvio [a digital farming environment from BASF] or part to Yara [a major input supplier in Europe] or to a consultant. The farmer owns the data and controls its use through access."
The Mark 2 builds on what Arable offered early on — a simple-to-install sensor that collects key crop information that can be put to use, especially in irrigation where water management is a major issue.
“We have several irrigators using our system,” says Ethington.
You can learn more about the sensor and the services the company offers at arable.com.