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Computer engineer Ranveer Chandra
LOOK AHEAD: Computer engineer Ranveer Chandra with Microsoft believes it may be possible to measure soil moisture using Wi-Fi technology instead of more expensive sensors.

Peek into future of farm data collection

Hi-Tech Farming: What if you could measure soil moisture without expensive sensors?

You would like to know about soil moisture conditions, and you want more than just a guess. One option is installing soil moisture sensors on equipment. The biggest drawback is cost.

Ranveer Chandra of Microsoft is a computer engineer who lives in the world of “what-ifs.” He’s already used this type of thinking to introduce Farm Beats. It uses “white space” — essentially empty channels on TV frequencies — to send data collected in farm fields back to a computer. Now he’s applying what-if thinking to address the need for information on variables such as soil moisture.

Chandra says it could be possible to use Wi-Fi in the field not just to transmit data, but also to measure things like soil moisture. How? It takes Wi-Fi signals longer to pass through wet soil than dry soil, he says. So, if you could measure how long it takes for Wi-Fi signals to pass through soil and have a standard for comparison, you could arrive at soil moisture content. It might lead to maps of soil moisture for an entire field.

This is just one of many concepts Chandra is pursuing. He is convinced that the “internet of things” and data collection will be key parts of agriculture’s future.

Glyphosate news

Bayer issued a news release recently noting that the U.S. EPA concluded it “did not identify any human health risks from exposure to glyphosate.” The statement is in EPA’s Interim Registration Review Decision on glyphosate.

Bayer spokespeople point to this review as further evidence that the extensive body of science continues to support the safety of herbicides containing glyphosate and that the active ingredient is not carcinogenic.

Meanwhile, legal wrangling continues in lawsuits and appeals related to glyphosate.

Company expands line

Unverferth Manufacturing Co. Inc., Kalida, Ohio, purchased Force Unlimited of Oelwein, Iowa. Force Unlimited produces an innovative line of Pro-Force pull-type and truck-mounted fertilizer spreaders. Both single- and multi-bin models are geared toward uniform, prescription application of granular fertilizer, cover crops, poultry litter and compost.

Products will continue to be offered under the Pro-Force brand. Visit unverferth.com and forceunltd.com.

Improved digger

Little Beaver introduces an updated UN-Towable drill for one-man digging projects. With an updated transport frame, spokespeople say it’s easier and safer to both transport and use. It’s powered by an 11-hp Honda engine and develops hydraulic pressure of 2,500 psi and an operating speed of 150 rpm. Visit littlebeaver.com or call 800-227-7515.

Heavy-haul trailer

Talbert Manufacturing introduces the 65SA Modular Trailer. The 65-ton trailer can be customized in various axle configurations and offers a 28-foot deck length. Configurations are available to increase capacity to 70 tons. The company is based in Rensselaer, Ind. Visit talbertmfg.com.

New mulcher head

Fecon, of Lebanon, Ohio, introduces a new low-flow mulcher head that works with most standard skid-steer loaders and Avant-type wheel loaders. The operating unit needs an enclosed cab and 17 to 27 gallons per minute of hydraulic flow. The new head features 22-knife or carbide-type cutting tools and has a 50-inch working width. It’s capable of shredding brush and small trees up to 4 inches in diameter. Visit fecon.com.

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