Lingering droughts, changing rules regarding water use and concern over energy consumption are all issues facing farmers almost daily. At the same time, companies are finding ways to help producers better manage available resources for best results. One approach is from Colorado-based Virridy Inc., which uses an advance monitoring system combined with crop modeling to make the most of available water and energy.
“The mission is to basically improve the management of natural resources,” says Lydia Stewart, chief business officer. “We develop and deploy technologies that manage water, energy and other agricultural resources, particularly in remote off-grid environments.”
The base of the system is a solar-powered gateway that doesn’t rely on cellular service to work. The solar-powered unit includes an antenna for communicating with the Swarm satellite network.
“The unit can run for maybe four days without sunshine,” Stewart says. “We use the Swarm network instead of cellular because a lot of our customers in California and in Africa don’t have access to cellular data.”
But the Virridy system is more than an easy communicator. The company has developed a system that provides growers real-time visibility to their water and energy usage.
“We send alerts when there are drops in efficiency, and we can automate pumps with an additional control box that can turn off a pump remotely to better manage water,” Stewart says.
Stewart acknowledges that Virridy is not the only game in town when it comes to internet-related management of resources. However, the satellite-based nature of the system means it can be up and running quickly.
“This gateway is banded to a pole near a pump and can be running in about 30 minutes,” she says. “We can install 10 or 15 in a day; it’s really quick.”
But where the company sets itself apart is the decision-making systems in the cloud that help manage resources. Data reported from pumps and other resource use areas on the farm are analyzed by Virridy, and incorporate weather information, spatial and temporal modeling, and forecasting, designed to maximize use of resources.
The cloud-based service, made easy worldwide thanks to the satellite-based technology, allows Virridy to crunch data from a farm and help producers make faster decisions. Turning off a pump a couple hours earlier before an incoming rainstorm can help manage water more effectively. And having this kind of data available easily can help farmers earn credits or get water permits more easily.
The Virridy satellite gateway is the “base” of the system. Individual pumps can be linked to that base using EnOcean sensors that Virridy provides. Those sensors send their signals to the base and from there to the cloud. The two-way system allows Virridy to return an action if data shows it’s required, as in shutting off a pump.
Cost and benefits
When farmers hear “satellite,” they might think “high cost,” but Virridy’s use of the Swarm network changes the economics. Price for the service is $179 per month per pump. Steward says the more precise monitoring of water use can save money in the long run and, in some cases, prevent fines from over-usage.
“With this system they can have real-time visibility and intelligence of their water usage and automate their reporting through the software component of our product,” she says.
For more information about the service and technology, visit virridy.com.