The Industrial Internet of Things FEATURE NEWS

Sensoterra Bundles Network Services from Senet Into Precision Agriculture Irrigation Solutions

By Cynthia S. Artin July 31, 2017

In another move to turn physical sensors and related software into connected solutions, including network connectivity, two companies in the Industrial IoT (IIoT) space announced last week that they have combined forces to bring an end-to-end solution to farmers wishing to use soil moisture data to more effectively manage farming practices, such as irrigation. 

Agricultural businesses will no longer need to figure out how to acquire and deploy the sensors, then connect those sensors to an IP network to be able to benefit from the data and adjust moisture levels; instead they will buy sensors from Sensoterra, with connectivity baked in. 

When companies buy the sensors, the sensors will automatically be connected to a Senet-based network; Sensoterra will then deliver free data based on polling those connected sensors to their customers. Connectivity is free for the first three years of the deployment, and customers will be given the option to continue a subscription to the service on Senet’s network, or select an alternative network service provider.

With the price of water rising as demand for water grows, and as continued experience and science are proving that more carefully managed irrigation not only reduces costs, but improves crop yields through better management of the mix of moisture, fertilizer and other elements in the context of constantly changing weather conditions, more and more farm - particularly large commercial farm - are investing in instrumenting their fields. 

Based in Amsterdam, Sensoterra has long based its success on low-cost, ruggedized sensors purpose built to operate on LoRaWAN infrastructure, a network standard that extends the life of batteries which, in the case of Sensoterra's embedded products means at least three years, and potentially up to a decade of service without maintenance required. 

"We were motivated by the desire of our customers to take full advantage of moisture monitoring and management in a more practical and sustainable way," said Jurriaan Ruys, CEO of Sensoterra. "Even when early sensors were wired and expensive, with limited range, commercial farms invested and received good enough returns to expand. With our wireless solution, now combined with an affordable networking service, the ROI improves by a factor of 3X, and unlocks many more opportunities for more and more farms to take advantage and modernize their operations." 

The market price of a Sensoterra sensor is approximately $150-200, including communications now provided on Senet’s LoRaWAN based network. This compares to competitive sensors, which cost $1,000 on average, and do not include connectivity services. 

Ruys explained that the improvement in ROI comes also from streamlining farm operations, claiming that the sensor installation happens in 1-2 minutes and the provisioning and activation of devices happens in seconds, which he says is “essential to deploying sensors at a scale.” 

“For the IIoT ecosystem to work, it’s important to consider not only the technology but the business models which reward companies who bring great innovations to market,” Ruys continued. “Our strategy is to work with companies like Senet, and not compete with the value chain, but enhance it. Our expertise and contribution is our proven hardware, and ability to generate data from that hardware, with an extreme focus on measuring moisture and improving irrigation techniques. We recognize farmers need more than just the data we provide, so are working with companies whose sensors generate related data.”

Those opportunities include the option to combine soil moisture data with other data, for example current weather conditions, weather forecasts, soil composition analyses and so forth. Sensoterra provides APIs making it possible for the data gathered from their sensors to feed into broader precision agriculture systems. 

The multi-year partnership makes Senet the network behind the Sensoterra solution, which Bruce Chatterley, CEO of Senet, sees as a major step towards the agricultural industry making even more strides in more environmentally conscious farming. 

"Together, we're making it easy for farmers to join the precision agriculture movement," Chatterley said. "And they can do so confidently, without having to risk complications, knowing they are able to take advantage of a physical, digital and virtualized solution with proven sensors, proven power sources, and proven secure network connectivity delivered as a service." 

Chatterley went on to say, "This is a great example of how the LoRa LPWAN technology can drive innovation and transformation in an industry which is ripe for that. This is prototypical of the kinds of things we will be doing moving forward. We are seeing a steady movement from lot of POCs to production - this is a great example where we started with a POC and were able to move into production quickly." 

According to the announcement issued by both companies, ease of installation and operation are significant differentiators of the Sensoterra soil moisture system. Sensors are simple to install, and data is viewable online less than one hour after installation. 

Their included management app is available for download and can operate on a laptop, tablet or mobile phone. Users have the ability to manage their installations through an easy to use dashboard and an open API is available for data integration.

The Sensoterra service is not just for farmers, Chatterley said. "There are also tremendous applications in, for example, commercial office parks investing in specimen plants that need to be monitored and maintained efficiently. Think about the impact the service can have for landscaping maintenance companies, for parks departments in large towns and cities, for any setting where water can be conserved and the investment in natural beauty can be optimized in meaningful, sustainable ways."

The announcement was made at the 2017 InfoAg Conference last week in St. Louis, Missouri

Edited by Ken Briodagh
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Contributing Writer

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