Improving agricultural efficiency with the IIoT

Schneider Electric

Wednesday, 12 July, 2017


Energy management company Schneider Electric recently worked with WaterForce, a provider of water management and irrigation solutions in New Zealand, to develop a cloud-based Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) mobile control solution. Built on Microsoft Azure and Azure IoT technologies, the system enables farmers to operate irrigation pivots with greater agility, efficiency and sustainability.

Agriculture accounts for nearly 70% of the world’s water consumption, with water use expected to rise as global food demand grows. Efficient irrigation is therefore critical.

With Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure architecture, WaterForce developed a cloud-based IIoT solution so farmers can monitor and control irrigation pumps and pivots from their computer, tablet or smartphone. EcoStruxure is Schneider Electric’s IoT-enabled, open and interoperable system architecture and platform that works across connected products, edge control, apps, analytics and services, enabling scalable design and operation of connected systems for increased operational efficiency.

“Every day I adjust my pivots and pumps for a variety of reasons — shifts in the wind, rain levels, crop requirements or local regulations,” said Craig Blackburn, director farm manager of Blackhills Farm. “Now I can monitor and control my irrigation system easily from my mobile phone, saving me hours of time not spent driving around the farm. With information at my fingertips my farm is more productive, water and energy costs are lower and crop yields higher.”

“EcoStruxure simplifies the integration between the connected products, edge control, and apps and analytics to provide an innovative solution that responds to the specific needs of these farmers,” noted Rob McGreevy, vice president of information, operations and asset management at Schneider Electric. With the ability to work with a farm’s existing equipment, such as irrigation and pump controllers, no significant capital investment is required before seeing benefits.

“Most farms are not built to handle large software installations,” said WaterForce Director Ron McFetridge. “Using a lightweight cloud solution with mobile capabilities has been key to expanding IoT capabilities to these farms. By leveraging our relationship with Schneider Electric, we can focus on our core business — effective water management — knowing that the information management, analytics and automation side is covered.”

WaterForce’s solution integrates multiple components of Schneider Electric’s software and hardware product portfolio, including cloud and mobility solutions, HMI/SCADA, variable speed drives and soft starters. It is built using Microsoft Azure IoT Hub, which includes a collection of integrated enterprise tools including devices, software, cloud, data and analytics.

The cloud-based IIoT irrigation control solution is provided through WaterForce and currently available in New Zealand.

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