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September 8, 2017

Prototyping a Crop Monitoring Solution with Analog Devices

ADI Crop Monitoring Solution

Above image: ADI’s crop monitoring solution installed at Sid Wainer Family Farm.

Analog Devices (ADI) is an ImpactLABS sponsor and world leader in the design and manufacture of analog, mixed-signal, and DSP integrated circuits used in all types of electronic equipment.

In this interview, Erick Olsen, Strategic Marketing Manager for Smart Agriculture at ADI, shares how ADI has worked with ImpactLABS to develop and pilot their crop monitoring solution for agricultural growers in our region.

ADI’s crop monitoring solution is currently deployed at five pilot host sites that work closely with ImpactLABS’s Food Security Lead, Liz Wiley, in Southeastern Mass and Rhode Island – the Dartmouth YMCA’s Sharing the Harvest farm, Sid Wainer, Eva’s Garden, Sylvan Nursery and Skinny Dip Farm.

Can you tell us about the ADI Crop Monitoring Solution– what it is, and why it is an exciting development for IoT in agriculture?

Our crop monitoring system is a complete edge to cloud environmental monitoring solution targeted towards agriculture, and specifically fresh produce agriculture. The solution includes the edge sensors that are monitoring air conditions (and in the future soil conditions), the communications gateway, and the cloud-based user dashboard. This hardware and cloud solution provides valuable micro/nano-climate information to the farmers enabling them to better understand the variability of the crop growing conditions and ultimately make better, data-driven decisions that affect OPEX and profitability. In addition, we are adding a near infrared spectrometer sensor, that, when combined with a crop specific model, gives farmers a sense of the quality of the crop. The ability to assess quality has never been possible in the farm environment and opens up many possibilities for monetizing the quality, based on their end customer needs.

Describe how you work with ImpactLABS.

Our work with ImpactLABS in agriculture started with our initial environmental monitoring prototype, which we called Fenway. This Bluetooth-based solution enabled ADI, through our ImpactLABS sponsorship, to connect with local farmers, and more importantly, thought leaders in the farm community in southeast and western Massachusetts. These collaborative efforts have continued to evolve and expand beyond the current deployments and current hardware solutions.

Greenhouse Sharing the Harvest

The Fenway, a previous prototype, at the YMCA Sharing the Harvest Farm.

What are the benefits of working with ImpactLABS to test and develop a prototype?

The greatest benefit is being part of an ecosystem of like-minded, mature companies who understand the opportunity to collaborate to solve difficult IoT challenges. Specific to our work in SmartAg, ImpactLABS provides contacts to the right people, and also excellent support partners for our pilots and our market research. All of this information helped us understand what our final product must do for the customers, what is necessary and sufficient, and what is “nice to have”.

Have you made any surprising or unexpected discoveries during your work with ImpactLABS?

I would say that the biggest learnings came from the farmer workshop that the ImpactLABS team helped pull together. Although we had a gut feeling about the value of understanding the soil, we came away with a far broader and deeper understanding of the need for soil sensing in terms of soil environmentals (soil moisture, temperature, conductivity), but also of the nutrient and micro-nutrient analysis.

What are the next steps for your Crop Monitoring Solution?

We are currently still deploying our MVP, an advanced prototype version of the solution. The next step, which has already begun, is the development of the first commercially available solution which will combine the air environmental monitoring capability of the current MVP version with the addition of soil environmental sensing (temperature, moisture, and electroconductivity). The goal is to have this solution, in combination with the spectrometer sensor, available in early spring 2018.

Persistent monitoring helps farmers to respond to sudden climate changes that threaten crops like these peppers.

Get more information about ADI’s Crop Monitoring Solution on their website.