Agriculture has to quickly adapt to the needs and demands of an ever-growing population, in order to maximise efficiency and land use. Farmers also need to be smart about creating solutions that can live in the fields for some extended periods without having to change batteries or be tended to.
Using a rechargeable solar battery means that an IoT device doesn’t need to be connected to a power outlet and that saves time effort and ultimately cost. Have you ever tried to legally lay an electrical cable across vast farmlands? …Neither have we but we assume and believe it’s an extremely long and expensive process. Best avoided!
The way to solve it is clearly some form of renewable energy like Solar power. Easy to install, with panels no longer costing and arm and a leg, it’s a really good solution for outdoor IoT devices at the edge of the network.
What challenges did you face in your industry that led to you choosing Pycom?
I chose Pycom as the supplier of my main device because it offered the crucial elements that my project required. I needed long–distance communication between devices with LoRa; a low operating power, so that I could power the device with a small LiPo battery which could be charged with a small solar cell and the ability to connect to a WiFi network, because the device would be in constant communication with the Cloud (the LoPy4 being used as a gateway). And finally, I loved the fact that it was so easy to programme the device with MicroPython, as I am a Python Software Developer!
How would you describe your process in one sentence prior to using our product?
It was almost impossible! I needed a solution that would require very little power, have a large communication range between devices, had the option of a solar panel battery charger (as there are very few to no power sources for devices in agriculture and it is exceedingly expensive to wire them up) and be able to send and receive data from the Cloud! There aren’t a lot of those on the market!
Were there any ‘deal breakers’ involved in your supplier decisions?
There were no deal breakers for me! I was very pleased to have found Pycom because it offers a great solution for my project. That’s why I contacted the COO, Bettina Rubek-Slater, as I wanted to say a big thank you!
How did you first hear about Pycom?
I studied Electrical Engineering and I currently work as a Python Software Developer. I was researching if it was possible to programme a microcontroller using Python. I soon realised that there was a programming language based on Python 3, called MicroPython, which is able to programme certain microcontrollers. Having looked through YouTube and Google, I found that low power and high range communication protocols, such as LoRa, are compatible with microcontrollers. That’s when I found Pycom!
What most attracted you to our products?
- Low power consumption
- The ability to connect a solar panel and charge the LiPo battery
- Long range distance communication between devices
- MicroPython programmable
- WiFi connectivity
How do you use our products in your solution?
My project centres around agriculture and creating smart crops; its purpose is to increase yield, extract soil data using sensors such as temperature and moisture, help farmers become more efficient in their processes and avoid human error.
The plan is to install a node in any part of the field that you want to collect data about the soil from. Every 30 minutes the node will send information such as soil moisture, to the gateway (which is a LoPy4 configured as a gateway and connected to the internet with WiFi). The node will have its own power supply, which will come from a rechargeable battery and solar panel. The gateway must always be charged, in order to process the data received from the nodes, to then send it on to the Cloud server using HTTP requests.
The diagram below is to outline the process.
LoRa Node in the Field
What results have you seen since implementing them?
After a month of testing, from February 15 to March 15, I recorded the date and number of hours when the LoPy4 device failed. As you can see, the failures were not related to the LoPy4 device.
The KPI used is as follows:
What would you tell others who are undecided about Pycom?
What are you waiting for! Don’t hesitate and choose Pycom to be the backbone of your solution! They have WiFi and Bluetooth for short distances and LoRa and Sigfox for long range – all in a single device!
Theo next to one of the nodes in the field.
For more information about GAX Smart Farm and their smart crops, please see here: https://www.gaxsmartfarm.com/