One of the challenges in applying agriculture tech on the farm is pulling together all the pieces. Information from machines, in-field and around the farm, often hits stumbling blocks. FieldMicro is working to change that.
The Australia-based startup has developed a holistic system for the farm that relies on a sensor-filled device, the FieldBot, tied into a cloud-based platform called SmartFarm. “The biggest point of differences off the bat with the FieldBot is that it is portable and it completes multiple tasks,” says Mitch Brownlie, CEO, FieldMicro.
He explains the FieldBot is built into a robust case with a solar panel on top, so a farmer can deploy the device and forget it; no extra power source is needed. “There are a lot of sensors in the unit including a camera, microphone, and sensors for temperature and humidity,” he says.
The system also allows attachment of other sensors like those to capture soil moisture information. This creates a data-gathering and control platform that interfaces with the SmartFarm software. And those FieldBots can talk to each other. “If a field area needs water — or has too much — instead of waking the farmer in the middle of the night, the unit can send a message to another FieldBot to turn a pump on or off,” Brownlie says.
But what about the microphone? The FieldBot can hear, which can be valuable in a variety of situations. For example, if it’s monitoring a diesel-powered irrigation pump, the system knows when that engine is running. When it goes silent it can record that and send an alert if needed, or verify that an engine has been shut off based on instructions from SmartFarm.
Tying tech together
The FieldBot is the data collection and control system; it ties into the SmartFarm system, which is cloud-based. And the platform uses two-way communication. “If you need to automate something or control it remotely, we can do that,” Brownlie says. “You can control a gate opener, or send a signal to shut off an irrigation pivot.”
The SmartFarm system is for data capture and management. The aim, Brownlie says, is to provide the farmer with total control of the farm. The company has an agreement with John Deere to collect telemetry from equipment and show that in the SmartFarm system, and he shares that the platform can pull in other information from third-party providers.
He’s on a mission to connect with other providers, too. “We’re looking for market dominance, so we're reaching out to all players including Case IH and Agco,” he says. “The platform is designed to be as compatible as possible.”
Teamed with the FieldBot systems — and you can run many of them doing different tasks or monitoring field activities —, the SmartFarm platform offers the potential for improved farm automation and control.
The system will be ready to deploy for the 2021 season, and the company is taking orders now, selling direct. With cloud-based systems, support can be handled remotely, Brownlie says. The website offers ordering information, and he adds that there are U.S.-based distributors interested in the product, too.
The website shows pricing, including a one-year subscription to SmartFarm for $99. Those FieldBot units start at $799 each, but there are currently some volume discounts. You can learn more at fieldmicro.com.