Smart Technologies

Wireless Technology Is a Game Changer for Growers

By Dirk Lenie

It’s not unusual to find the latest technol- ogy powering farm equipment … but it is unique to find a 101-year-old behind the controls.

A life-long Kansas farmer, Loyd Ratts, re- members the days when horses powered the plows and other equipment on his Stafford County farmland.

“I did my first farm job at four and really got into farming when I was about 10 years old,” Ratts said. “I farmed with horses until I graduated from high school. Moving from horse-powered farming to tractors was a huge change.”

Calling himself an early adopter, Ratts has initiated many changes in his opera- tion — most recently integrating smart technology into his irrigation system. With FieldNET technology and a smartphone, he can remotely monitor and control his entire center pivot irrigation system and

receive up-to-the-minute alerts if there are performance issues.

“I’ve been irrigating since about 1973, so I have been participating in all the changes that have happened with irrigation since then. There were many times the system would get stuck and I had no way of knowing it, so I would lose 24 to 48 hours of irrigation when the crops desperately needed it,” Ratts said. “With this technology, if something happens, it sends a notice to me, and I can correct it right away. I don’t lose any hours of irrigation.”

Fully integrated wireless management tools, like FieldNET, let growers control their systems from virtually anywhere. For both large and small operations, the remote fea- tures can enhance yields, reduce labor costs and increase overall irrigation efficiency.

With these smart products, growers have the ability to monitor and control pivots,

laterals, pumps and sensors from a laptop, tablet or smartphone, resulting in long- term savings on energy, water, chemicals and labor.

Monitor and Control Both Center Pivot and Drip Irrigation Systems

Like Ratts, Texas grower Steve Chapman has seen many changes on the farm his family has operated for more than 80 years.

“I really believe that we’ve seen more chang- es in the last 20 years than the previous 50 years,” Chapman said. “We really didn’t get irrigation out here until the 1950s.”

Chapman’s center pivot and drip irrigation systems also feature the latest technologies.

“I started using remote irrigation control on my pivots several years ago, and at that time I had been driving by those pivots twice a day. Now I wake up, look at the computer and see if there are any prob- lems with our pivots and know exactly where to go,” he said. “On the drip system, it’s multi-faceted in that it will control the pumps. I don’t even have to go to the drip system to be confident that everything is running. It gives me the flow, all the information I need, and which program it’s running. It’s even showing the valves.”

Upgrade Nearly Any Pivot Brand

Even those with older pivots can take advantage of the technology that is now available; growers can retrofit almost any brand of pivot to full remote irrigation control and monitoring capabilities.

Because farms are consolidating, multiple pivot brands are being used at once. These

22 Irrigation TODAY | July 2016

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