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Smartphone Puts Control of Farm At Fingertips

Posted on July 23, 2013 at 9:00 AM by Iowa Corn

With his cell phone, Joe Hossle has control of much of his farm at his fingertips. He can check grain bin levels, video-surveillance footage and the temperature inside his shop and his home.

Hossle even can turn the lights off and on in his house, much to his wife’s chagrin. “It’s fun,” he says. “It really is amazing what I can do with this system.” Hossle, who farms near here in Montgomery County, runs a grain and cattle operation in Southwest Iowa. His farm recently was fitted with a system that allows him to monitor and control certain aspects of his farm with his phone or a computer.

Installed by Clear2there, an Oklahoma City company, the system allows Hossle and his wife, Jody, to ensure things are functioning properly even when they are not on the farm. The Smart Farm system uses multiple applications and devices, says Craig Steen, an Iowa native and Clear2there CEO and president.

“The technology is hosted by a cloud service through the local telephone company,” he explains. “They provide Internet and broadband service and allow us to connect into their network. All the devices have their own ID, and our cloud service monitors those on a real-time basis.”

The system is set up on Hossle’s office computer. Each application has its own customized rules.
For instance, Hossle can set temperature settings in his home, shop and office through the system and then monitor them with his cell phone. Buildings may be locked and unlocked. Timers also can be set, Hossle says.

He says one of the major pluses is the ability to measure grain bin levels without getting into the bin.
Steen uses a sensor produced by BinMaster that not only allows Hossle to monitor levels but tells him the local cash price for grain and the value of the grain inside the bin. “That’s a big thing for me, especially at harvest when you are filling bins but also when you are unloading them,” Hossle says.
He is building a new grain bin at a remote location and says this bin will also have a heat sensor to monitor the temperature inside of the bin.

“That’s a real safety attribute during harvest,” Steen adds. “You don’t need to be going up and down in the bin when you can get an accurate measurement of the grain in the bin from your phone.”

Hossle also can receive a message when someone drives onto the farm. As technology continues to evolve, farmers will be able to do more from a remote location, says Mark Hanna, Extension ag engineer at Iowa State University. “It certainly is a trend, and it’s only going to grow,” he adds.

Hanna says apps that turn lights on and off or monitor temperature are becoming more available. He says future devices may give farmers more control of their operations without having to be on the farm. “You certainly can see possibilities for this with something like livestock buildings,” Hanna says.

Grain-bin applications are being developed, he adds. Hanna says larger farms would find value in being able to monitor levels and temperatures. “That would be very useful information,” he says. “Plus, from a safety aspect, the less you have to go into that bin, the better.”

Steen says the cost of the system will depend on what features the farmer wants. For example, he says some sensors cost less than $100, while the bin-monitoring device costs about $1,500. “I think if you look at the safety aspect and your ability to monitor your operation, it will pay off in the long run,” Steen says.

Hossle is a believer. He says the system is easy to use and helps reduce worry for him. “I’m 58 years old, and I figured it out pretty easily,” he says. “It’s all about efficiency with farming. “We learned that in the ’80s. Agriculture is a business, and we need to be able to operate as efficiently as possible.”
Hossle believes a system like his is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to technology. “I can see so many different uses for something like this,” he says.

“It would work great for a livestock building and other places on the farm. We can’t be afraid of technology if it can make us more efficient.”
~By Jeff DeYoung Iowa Farmer Today 

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