Tackling global issues with cloud and IoT technology

WaterForce leverages Microsoft Azure’s service platform through Schneider Electric’s cloud and hardware products to help farmers improve sustainability

Rebecca Gibson
Rebecca Gibson
By Rebecca Gibson on 07 June 2018
Tackling global issues with cloud and IoT technology
This article first appeared in the Spring 2018 issue of The Record.

Globally, humanity faces many challenges, such as climate change, decaying infrastructure and political instability. However, one challenge that is just as urgent, but does not always get as much media coverage, is rising food demand. Global demand for food is expected to double by 2050, which will put increasing strain on already scarce water resources. Agriculture already accounts for nearly 70% of the world’s water consumption, and water demand is estimated to increase 55% to meet this growing food demand.

Therefore, it’s critical that farmers improve the sustainability and efficiency of their operations.

Sustainable water solutions provider WaterForce wanted to help farmers to address the growing demand by developing a sophisticated, yet easy-to-use, cloud-based water management solution that leveraged the industrial internet of things (IIoT) to monitor and control geographically isolated assets. The result was SCADAfarm.

SCADAFarm combines Microsoft Azure’s capabilities, AVEVA’s Insight powered by Wonderware Online cloud software, and Schneider Electric’s hardware products into a complete package that allows farmers to monitor and control their irrigation pivots anywhere, anytime, from any device. This enhanced level of control and visibility allows improved operational performance across farms, enabling farmers to save water and energy.

Farmers can easily configure and control the solution to take advantage of rapidly shifting variables such as changes in the wind, rain levels and market conditions. Advanced analytics offer a complete historical picture of irrigation pivots, providing additional context for farmers to diagnose issues early. Using this solution, farmers in New Zealand have improved operational performance, water management and energy usage – one farmer halved energy costs in a single season using SCADAFarm.

By providing this level of information access and control from mobile devices, SCADAFarm also gives farmers peace of mind. Instead of being tied to the farm, farmers can now leave the area and log in anytime to confirm that their irrigation system is functioning correctly. The solution’s comprehensive data capture functionality also improves regulatory compliance. Plus, because it is built on Microsoft Azure IoT, SCADAFarm is highly scalable. The solution does not require in-depth technical knowledge and seamlessly integrates with existing software and hardware investments.

“Most farms are not built to handle large software installations,” said Ron McFetridge, director of WaterForce. “Using a lightweight cloud solution with mobile capabilities has been key to expanding IoT capabilities to these farms.”

The successes these farmers have achieved with the help of Waterforce and Schneider Electric shows the value of digital transformation in building a more efficient, sustainable approach to agriculture.

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