Soybean South

 - PRECISION AG -

Irrigation Options Via Remote Control

Pivot manufacturers and other companies offer many options
for producers who want to remotely monitor and control their irrigation
systems, which will help promote a healthy bottom line.

By Calvin Perry
and Andrea Milton

 
Growers lose valuable earnings when a pivot inches around a field without watering or stops walking while the water continues to flow. Yet, time and fuel spent continuously checking on systems erodes the bottom line of the operation, especially with gas at nearly $3 per gallon.

Producers need to know, in a timely fashion, when a system is running properly and when it is not. One way to accomplish that is through remote monitoring and control.

Options from pivot manufacturers
Currently, there are many options for the farmers interested in remotely accessing their irrigation systems. The primary center-pivot manufacturers offer optional remote monitoring and control capabilities. Most use cell or land-line telephone service to access the system; others provide Internet or radio access.

Table 1 shows several products and some of the monitoring and control functions offered by each manufacturer. Each product has an initial installation/hardware cost and most require a monthly subscription fee, usually six months or one-year minimum. Information, compiled from the manufacturers’ Web sites, is not a complete list of offerings, so contact your dealer for more information.

Options independent of pivot manufacturer
Other companies have begun offering remote monitoring and control systems not tied to a particular pivot manufacturer.

Pivotrac uses a universal remote telemetry unit (RTU) that communicates via cell phone service to a pager for monitoring functions (pivot on/off, water on/off, voltage) or to a cell phone for remote pivot start/stop service. Pivotrac also provides Internet monitoring and control functions. www.pivotrac.com

Isaacs & Associates develops customized installations and uses wireless technology for their monitoring (soil moisture, flow, pressure, temperature, field position and speed) and control, including remote pump control. www.isaacstech.com

Dexter Fortson Associates offers the PivotMACS product that communicates via radio telemetry and allows for feedback control (pivot start/stop, direction, water on/off, and speed), alarm monitoring, scheduling, and data acquisition (wind speed, rainfall, temperature, water flow, etc.). An RTU is capable of sending messages to pagers and phones and receiving control messages (start/stop, direction, water on/off, speed).

Automated Irrigation Controls (AIC) of Sylvester, Ga., offers custom installations and remote monitoring of pivot parameters such as pressure, flow, field position, status, etc. Their remote control functions include pivot start/stop, direction, pump start/stop, and scheduling. AIC also installs variable speed drive controls on irrigation pumps to control flow of water when the center pivot passes over areas needing less water. www.automatedirrigationcontrols.com

Izon A.M.S. located in Paragould, Ark., does not monitor or control pivots directly, but offers a cell phone-based system to remotely monitor irrigation pumps, grain bins, farm gates, steam levels and other applications. Changes in equipment status results in transmission of a notice to pager, cell phone, or email. The system also allows for remote shut down of irrigation pumps. www.izonams.com

This discussion of remote monitoring and control options for irrigation systems is not an exhaustive review, but gives an overview of the types of products available. System prices vary widely based on models and options desired. Contact the vendors or dealers directly for a cost estimate.

Calvin Perry is a Public Service Representative, Biological and Agricultural Engineering, with the National Environmentally Sound Production Agriculture Laboratory (NESPAL) at the University of Georgia. Andrea Milton is a Research Professional, Biological and Agricultural Engineering, also with NESPAL. Please contact the authors at perrycd@uga.edu or amilton@uga.edu. For more information about precision agriculture, visit the Web site at http://nespal.cpes.peachnet.edu, click on Areas of Research, then click on Precision Agriculture.