Outdoor
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Farmers looking over crops with grain silos in the background at sunset

Years—maybe generations—have gone into honing your farming and irrigation techniques…learning how to read the terrain, the weather, and the soil to conserve water, protect your crops, and maximize your yields. 

In today's landscape of climate change and the vital need for sustainable agriculture, optimizing irrigation has become the most ongoing, complex challenge you face — and one of the biggest factors that determine your success. 

A new secret weapon appeared on the horizon to help farmers address this and other agricultural challenges - the power of DATA. By deploying a network of highly accurate IoT smart sensors to monitor your farm, you were suddenly able to have in-depth, real-time conditions data at your fingertips —information that puts you in the driver’s seat of making even smarter decisions, helping you squeeze more profit out of every acre. It was the dawn of precision farming, and the entire “field” of commercial agriculture would never be the same. 

Maybe you’ve already implemented an irrigation monitoring system or sensor network. Maybe you know you need to, but don’t think it’s affordable, or don’t know where to start. As the landscape of agricultural monitoring continues to evolve, you may wonder if you’re doing enough.

To help you get the lay of the land, we’ve put together an overview of how a remote monitoring system can optimize your irrigation and more, using a combination of sensors, stations, and cloud software that fits your farm like a glove.

Let’s dig in!

Why Is Optimizing Irrigation So Important, Anyway?

Whether you're a commercial or small-scale farmer, you already know that optimizing your irrigation just plain makes sense. You can increase your yields, your profits, and most of all, reduce water usage. The type of irrigation system you have now could be a drain on any of those things, but nonetheless may be the best option for your specific needs or farming conditions. It's important to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of your irrigation systems. Once you have a clear picture of what your weak points and needs might be, you can identify areas where using sensors to monitor conditions can most benefit you. By continuously tracking factors in specific locations throughout your operation, like soil moisture at multiple depths, weather conditions, and water level, you can use data to help you identify and remedy issues quickly. For example, you can: 

  • Pinpoint exactly where, when, and how much to water.
  • Detect drainage problems and leaks in pipes.
  • Track relative humidity to protect your crops from disease—and weather conditions to pick the best time to apply herbicides.

The Benefits of Remote Sensor Networks & Monitoring Systems 

Using a remote sensor network puts that crucial, timely information in your hands, and pays dividends in its benefits:

  • Energy Savings

    • Efficient irrigation reduces energy consumption, lowering electricity or fuel costs

  • Water Conservation & Costs

    • Precise irrigation reduces water usage and associated costs
  • Crop Protection from Climate Change Impacts

    • Connect up to 50 wireless temperature sensors to monitor microclimates across a wide area and get real-time alerts that let you make informed decisions and react quickly to protect plants from frost and excess heat
  • Reduced Runoff

    • Pinpointing irrigation requirements minimizes runoff and prevents soil erosion
  • Enhanced Crop Health

    • Properly watered crops are healthier and less prone to disease, reducing the need for water-intensive treatments

Use web-based software like HOBOlink to view and analyze data, giving you even greater visibility and decision-making power. HOBOlink can send you customized alerts about on-the-ground conditions and provides 24/7 access to your crop data from anywhere, so you can act quickly. Plus, you can easily connect your data to Integrated Pest Management (IPM) forecasting tools, like NEWA or AgWeatherNet, to help you prevent crop loss.

BONUS: More sustainable farming practices and cost savings! You can optimize water usage by monitoring water level in storage tanks and wells, or by installing wireless soil moisture sensors throughout your crop, all while protecting our most precious resource - and the environment. Speak with an application expert today to learn about our HOBOnet wireless monitoring system.

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Choosing a Remote Monitoring Solution That Fits Your Needs: What You Should Consider

Investing in or upgrading your current monitoring system may seem cost-prohibitive at first, but there are affordable solutions out there, and it’s easy to see that the potential benefits to your bottom line are huge. Data-driven decisions are your key to staying competitive, so when selecting a remote monitoring system for your farm, you want to consider the total cost of ownership (and benefits) over time. 

In addition to what you specifically want to measure and how granular you need the data to be, you’ll want to consider:

  • Ease of Installation

    • How intuitive and efficient are the setup and configuration features? 
  • Scalability 

    • How many sensors can the system support? Can the system accommodate future growth and additional monitoring needs? 
  • Data Access

    • Can the data be accessed using a mobile device or desktop? Is it a web-based system that will give you real-time access to data, and text/email alerts if sensors fail or conditions are critical, so you can act quickly?
  • How You Want to Use the Data

    • For agricultural research or education, look for software that can create visual dashboards to best share your data and conclusions.
  • Long-term Costs

    • While initial costs are important, ongoing maintenance and sensor replacement should also be factored in

Monitoring with a HOBOnet Remote Sensor Network

Designed by Onset, a HOBOnet remote wireless sensor network offers a versatile solution that directly addresses these considerations with research-grade sensors and remote stations that are reliable, accurate, low-cost, scalable, and easy to use. Each HOBOnet monitoring system supports up to 50 different sensors, giving you the flexibility to choose from a range of measurements and tailor the network to your particular needs. The addition of a remote station gives you the ability to send your network data to the cloud and access it from anywhere - for analysis, setting alarm notifications, sharing with stakeholders, and more.

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Screenshot of Coonamessett Farm HOBOnet system as viewed through HOBOlink.

 

HOBOnet Sensors and Remote Monitoring Stations

  • Soil Moisture Sensors

    • Available in both single- and multi-depth options, HOBO soil moisture sensors are ideal for drip and sprinkler systems, providing real-time data on soil moisture levels
  • Weather Conditions

    • Monitor wind speed, wind direction, and rainfall to know when it's safe to apply pesticides or leverage rainwater for irrigation
  • Flow Meters

    • Flow meters are essential to accurately measure water consumption in flood and center pivot systems
  • Water Level

    • Monitor available groundwater, and how much water is in your tank, reservoir, and irrigation canal
  • Leaf Wetness

    • Measuring leaf wetness tells you how much moisture is present in your crop canopy, indicating when you need to spray, or when conditions put your crops at risk for disease
  • Temperature & Relative Humidity (RH) 

    • Track microclimate temperatures and RH to customize your irrigation frequency and/or quantity, monitor the temperature of your storage facilities, safeguard crops from extreme frost events, and more

Your choice of sensors and the way you set up your system depends on your specific irrigation system, what conditions and areas you need to monitor, and your budget. Do some research and talk to other farmers too. For example, for most commercial farms, a web-based weather station with wireless sensors is ideal, as it provides flexibility in sensor placement across a wide area. See this use case to see how HOBOnet was used for crop planning.

Next Steps For Optimizing Your Irrigation

Data from HOBOnet wireless sensor network provides insights into your irrigation efficiency that just aren’t possible without smart monitoring technology. With soil moisture and other sensors placed strategically in your fields, you’ll know exactly how much water your crops are getting and when they need more.

This is just a quick overview of how a system like HOBOnet can empower and improve your decision-making by putting all the data you need in the palm of your hand. 

And check out our new HOBOnet Remote Water Level Monitoring System

Ready to optimize your irrigation? Get in touch with our team, and we can help you put together a remote field monitoring system that’s perfectly suited to make your farm more sustainable…and profitable!

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