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Finding the Best Remote Monitoring System for Hydroponic Planting Media

remote monitoring system for hydroponic planting

In 1900, the population of the world was 1.6 billion. That was about a 50% jump from 100 years before. Fast-forward to today to 7.5 billion, and it's expected to reach 10 billion by 2100. While that's largely because of very positive things like disease eradication and plummeting child mortality, it also means there are a lot of mouths to feed.

All of us need to be fed using the same amount of land that was available in 1800. And although there have been advances in agriculture, there's also a serious reduction of arable land. What does that mean? It means that, more and more, the world is going to be looking at indoor, vertical agriculture powered by hydroponics.

Hydroponic agriculture is ag that depends on water that's pumped into a warehouse and calibrated precisely so as not to waste resources. It has to be distributed exactly at the right times and scale, often over multiple facilities.

As hydroponic agriculture grows, and as businesses start to have multiple remote locations, it will be crucial to:

  • Monitor the electricity, water, and power at every "digital farm"
  • Make sure every system, from water intake to lighting and distribution, is working on command

This increases the importance of finding the best remote monitoring system for hydroponic planting media to keep crops growing while maintaining costs and operating at peak performance. It's important to the digital farming bottom line and for proving this agricultural business model is viable to contribute to feeding our world's population.

The Challenges of Hydroponic Agriculture

In early 2017, the largest indoor farm in Chicago shut down. It had been a pioneer in the field but wasn't able to make it work. The costs and expenditures were too extensive compared to the revenues. It's not that their crops weren't growing or selling - they were doing both - it's that the cost of making it work was too high.

That's because the amount of water that needed to be pumped through the system required a ton of energy, as did the lighting. If they used too much water, it cost a great deal of money. Using too little, obviously, wasn't an option. It must be perfectly calibrated.

That's not all that can go wrong on an urban farm. Issues like temperature, humidity, light, and more have to be right. While calibrating has improved, it's still critical that nothing goes wrong as crops can be ruined and costs can overrun. And it's crucial that costs are maintained.

Hydroponic plant media or digital farming is a new industry, and investors have to see returns. Even if we convince them that, long-term, this is vital for humanity, if there isn't profit in the short-term, the industry could experience a drought.

All areas need to be monitored. A remote monitoring system for hydroponic planting media is the best way to do that.

How Remote Monitoring Systems Save Money for Hydroponic Plants

A remote monitoring system is generally made up of two broad categories of parts: the remote telemetry units (RTUs) and the master stations. Roughly speaking, the RTUs gather information, and the masters interpret it and take action.

RTUs work by being set to gather very specific types of information. Each one is programmed to monitor one aspect of your farm, and send a signal to the master if anything is going wrong or no longer falls between pre-programmed parameters.

So what can these RTU systems monitor at a hydroponic farm? Here's an overview:

  • Energy consumption is related to a number of factors, including lighting and water usage
  • Water pressure throughout the system or at specific locations
  • Temperature
  • Humidity (especially important in greenhouses)
  • Automation of equipment. Many operations have automatic triggers to irrigate when the soil gets dry or temp gets too high. Making sure this absolutely vital equipment is always working is a key part of a network of RTUs
  • Monitoring of equipment. For automation to work, the monitoring system for monitoring equipment has to work as well
  • Security. Is a door open when it shouldn't be? Is someone moving when they shouldn't be?
  • Emergencies. RTUs can monitor smoke, fire, weather-related events, and more. If a tree crashes through your lighthouse roof in the middle of the night, you can be alerted

What happens when any of these events occur? Let's look at a few examples and see how remote monitoring systems can be used.

An Automated Response

The temperature is getting too high in one of your locations. The RTU senses that and sends a message to the master.

The master then sends inquiries to other RTUs to make sure your internal monitoring systems are working so that water can be released. If they're not working, it takes action, including:

  • Triggering the irrigation system automatically if that's how it's been programmed
  • Sending a text alert letting you know what happened

This all happens nearly instantaneously.

Routing to the Right Person

If there's a concern in the greenhouse climate or environment, actions are taken. The system immediately triggers a text or email alert to management so it can be fixed ASAP, or you can pre-program the monitoring system to handle the situation automatically. If it's a remote location, you might not have known for hours (or even days!).

Calling a First Responder

In extreme cases, like fire or a break-in, you don't want to hear about it and then have to call the authorities. You can program your system to immediately alert the right first responder. When there's no time to waste, your system works instantly.

So what does this all mean for you? A few things.

  1. Having a clear picture of your entire remote agricultural operation means you don't have to send people out to monitor them when there aren't problems
  2. Solving problems before they become disasters helps save your crop
  3. Saving your crop means being able to produce revenues

All of this keeps your expenditures down, your revenue steady, and results in confidence in your business model. Remote monitoring can help keep the lights on now and will create a more successful future.

Finding the Best Remote Monitoring System for Hydroponic Planting Media

No matter where you plant, you need the best remote monitoring system. Make no mistake: this is a big project. You'll most likely require a significant amount of monitors, all programmed to give you the precise information you need to stay on top of your hydroponic farms.

That's why you want to work with partners who can create a custom system that's exactly right for your operation. The benefits of that are two-fold, you:

  1. Don't overspend on unnecessary monitors
  2. Still get all the coverage you need

Having all the coverage you need ensures the system pays for itself. You have fewer problems and eliminate wasted resources. You can use your people the right way - not fixing problems that could be automated and not checking on things that don't need to be checked. It means preventing disasters.

You're functioning on a tight margin, so it's crucial to work with a partner who understands the field, has been there before, and will be there in the future. Trying to save a few bucks on a lower functioning system could mean not having a partner in the next year. You don't want that.

You need a company that provides intensive training and best-in-class customer support. And you want someone who understands your business. Someone who knows where you want to be. When you're looking for the best remote monitoring system for your hydroponic farm, you want a partner who will help you grow.

DPS Telecom has the expertise to help hydroponic agriculture companies monitor what matters most - including their costs. Our technicians can work with you to install RTUs with easy-to-use interfaces for more automatic responses. Reach out and get a quote today!

Image courtesy Shutterstock

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