farm internet
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The Internet of Things promises water savings.

By Natalie Willis, Reporter, Valley Ag Voice

Water conservation in the valley is receiving a high-tech makeover through the newly launched Internet of Things (IoT) network solution for the agriculture industry, promising to significantly advance AgTech and close the connectivity gap in fields and rural communities.

The IoT network solution is a collaborative effort between Cal.net, a leading California broadband provider, and Emergent Connext, a wireless technology company for the agriculture industry. With a focus on the Central Valley, the IoT network solution intends to address connectivity challenges and ultimately give farmers an estimated 10% in water savings.

The Internet of Things describes a network of interrelated devices that connect and exchange data with other IoT devices. Cal.net and Emergent are deploying a low-cost network that supports smart IoT sensors and devices for AgTech to increase farm and ranch profitability by reducing labor costs, minimizing farm inputs, and conserving natural resources.

Millions of IoT devices such as field sensors, pump and valve actuators, and industrial sensors like propane tank monitors will be connected through the network. In a press release, CEO of Emergent Mark Roudi explained that the solution was first deployed at Terranova Ranch in Fresno County where it automated irrigation and water management processes.

“By partnering with Cal.net and deploying our first solution at Terranova Ranch, we are demonstrating the power of data-driven agriculture to transform the way farming is done,” Roudi said. “Together, with Cal.net’s help, farmers can make smarter decisions, improve their bottom line, and contribute to a more sustainable future.”

The network aims to connect millions of IoT devices across 2.4 million square miles of rural land and 1.5 square miles of agricultural land.

In an email, Senior Vice President for Cal.net Craig Stein explained that the estimated water savings are at least 10%, and by automating water management, labor costs are projected to decrease by 20%.

“Our ability to turn the valves and pumps on and off automatically as scheduled will reduce the amount of water used by each farmer and help the conservation effort,” Stein said. “We can also use the data from the moisture sensors within the field to make decisions about turning on water based on the moisture of the soil.”

Stein explained that the water conservation solution utilizes almost all of a farm’s existing water distribution equipment, and only replaces the valves and pump actuators to work with the IoT network.

“Our approach is to use as much of the existing equipment as possible and if we must use new equipment for part of the solution, our goal is to utilize off-the-shelf equipment that is not proprietary so that we get the cost as low as possible to the farmer,” Stein said.

By partnering with Emergent, Cal.net plans to leverage its infrastructure to support Central Valley farmers and rural communities. Along with water conservation efforts, the network solution offers real-time monitoring of soil moisture levels, crop health, and environmental conditions while providing advanced irrigation, fertilization, and pest control automation.

According to Stein, future enhancement plans include adding features such as RFID tagging — radio-frequency identification — remote fan control, and additional monitoring capabilities for soil and fertilizers.

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