Evaluation of inexpensive wireless sensor networks for managing small vegetable farms

Final Report for FNE12-748

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2012: $14,951.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2012
Region: Northeast
State: Massachusetts
Project Leader:
Larry Manire
Databasics
Co-Leaders:
Dan Kaplan
Brookfield Farm
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Project Information

Summary:

Vegetable farmers that grow a wide diversity of crops need information in real-time on conditions in their fields, crops and facilities. Such information can help with timing of planting, frost and blight protection, detection of equipment failures, etc. Wireless sensor networks are now available to farmers to provide it.

This project reviewed the available technology and tested some options for inexpensive wireless sensor networks, Internet based data storage and display, and devices such as iPhones and iPads. We tested sensors from Libelium.com, Digi.com, Nietzsche Enterprise (http://www.nhr.com.tw), ReillyTechnology.com, Monnit.com and Mojyle.com.

Our main test farm was Brookfield Farm, Amherst, MA. We also tested wireless sensor networks at two University of Massachusetts research projects: (1) a low tunnels project at the UMass research farm, and (2) a vegetable storage conditions project with sensors at Brookfield, and Red Fire Farm, Montague, MA and Simple Gifts Farm, North Amherst, MA.

The best results were from temperature and humidity readings from fields, greenhouses and vegetable storage facilities (walk-ins and root-cellars). These readings sent as cell phone “alerts” in real time prompted farmers to initiate frost protection, cool an overheated greenhouse, fix a failed walk-in cooling unit and adjust humidity in a root-cellar among other things. They allowed researchers to get a real-time view of conditions in the research projects. Although we were able to deploy soil temperature, soil moisture and leaf wetness sensors to several fields, we were not able to effectively use the resulting data due to delays and other factors. However, we feel farmers should consider using these sensors where appropriate.

Specific recommendations resulting from this project are given in our primary outreach product, the website New England Farm Sensors (http://nefarmsensors.org). This gives detailed equipment listings and vendors and other information to help in setting up a wireless network and will be maintained as a farm sensors resource by the project Technical Manager and others going forward. Notice of the website was sent to nine farming organizations.

Personnel

Our project personnel were:
-Dan Kaplan, Project Director, Manager, Brookfield Farm, Amherst, MA
-Larry Manire, Technical Manager, Databasics, Coventry, RI, computer consultant and farm volunteer
-Tim Reilly, Technical Consultant, Reilly Technology, Kelowna, BC, Canada, Wireless Sensor Networking Software Engineer
-Ruth Hazzard, Technical Advisor, Extension Educator, UMass Vegetable Program, Center for Agriculture, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA.
-Amanda Brown, Technical Advisor, also of the UMass Vegetable Program
Amanda Brown replaced our original technical advisor Andy Cavanagh, also of the UMass Vegetable Program who left the employ of UMass shortly after the project started.

Introduction:

According to most analysts, the next big waves of technical innovation after personal computers and the Internet include mobile computing and the “Internet of Things” often referred to as M2M or Machine-to-Machine communication. Now devices, usually containing a microcomputer and a radio, can communicate with each other and with humans via the Internet and can use over 300 different kinds of sensors. The past few years have seen major advancements in standards for radio communication using the unlicensed frequencies and with built in software that allows these radios and the devices that include them to create self-forming, self-healing “mesh” networks. Mesh networks allow radio signals from an “end device” such as a temperature sensor to go around sources of interference by using intermediate radios (routers or repeaters) to relay signals to a gateway device connects to the Internet via WiFi, an Ethernet/LAN cable or via a computer. The observations are stored in the “cloud” and accessible using tablets and smart phones along with standard computers. These radio based networks of devices allow farmers to easily place sensors and devices that can be read and controlled on the farm without having to string wires to them. While Wireless Sensor Networks (WSN) have been used in industrial and building automation for about the past 10 years, only a few farms, mostly very large ones in the west have started using them.

Until very recently wireless sensors have been quite expensive to deploy and have not made it easy for the farmer to access the information collected. This project was designed to explore the current state of sensors that are likely to be affordable and easily usable for small vegetable farms.

Personnel

Our project personnel were:
-Dan Kaplan, Project Director, Manager, Brookfield Farm, Amherst, MA
-Larry Manire, Technical Manager, Databasics, Coventry, RI, computer consultant and farm volunteer
-Tim Reilly, Technical Consultant, Reilly Technology, Kelowna, BC, Canada, Wireless Sensor Networking Software Engineer
-Ruth Hazzard, Technical Advisor, Extension Educator, UMass Vegetable Program, Center for Agriculture, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA.
-Amanda Brown, Technical Advisor, also of the UMass Vegetable Program
Amanda Brown replaced our original technical advisor Andy Cavanagh, also of the UMass Vegetable Program who left the employ of UMass shortly after the project started.

Test Farms

We had planned to test sensor equipment at Brookfield Farm and Woodbridge Farm (which became Provider Farm) in Salem, CT. However, being a start-up Provider Farm was unable to participate at that time. Fortunately Ruth Hazard had two research projects starting in the fall that could use sensors and added valuable variety to our testing scenarios. These were both part of the SARE Research and Education project LNE10-297, Expanding Winter Production and Sales of Vegetable Crops in New England.

The Low Tunnels project planted onions, kale, spinach, mustard greens, carrots and beets in four low tunnels at the UMass research farm to test the tunnels as a way of extending the season and over-winter crops to be harvested in April-May and to test which crops do best in the tunnels. This project provided a very different scenario to test the sensors with sensors being completely enclosed and inaccessible in a low tunnel for the winter. We were able to place three temperature/humidity sensors in the low tunnels which were covered in December and subsequently inaccessible. The sensors allowed the researchers to monitor daily temperature fluctuations within and between the tunnels and determine the best time to remove the covers to prevent overheating in the spring

In the second project, stored carrots grown during the summer at the UMass research farm had been placed in four different types of vegetable storage facilities in four local farms. Proper temperature and humidity are critical in maintaining the quality of stored vegetables. Carrots were tested as they have some of the most demanding storage requirements: 32 degrees F to 35 degrees F for temperature and 95% humidity. The stored carrots were tested for weight loss and brix (sweetness) once a month. We were able to place temperature/humidity sensors at three of the farm storage facilities.

The Brookfield root-cellar was one of the sites and already being tested by our grant. The UMass grant purchased gateway netbooks and Cygnus sensors for testing in the storage facilities at Red Fire Farm (http://redfirefarm.com), Montague, MA, and Simple Gifts farm (http://www.simplegiftsfarmcsa.com), North Amherst, MA. Mr. Manire, the Technical Manager, also supplied Digi LTH sensors for tracking outside temperatures. So, with the permission of SARE, these projects replaced the Provider Farm test as part of the grant.

Project Objectives:

Our goal was to test and evaluate sensors meeting the following requirements:
-wireless, networked
-include sensors for one or more of air temperature, relative humidity, soil temperature, soil moisture, leaf wetness and rainfall.
-relatively inexpensive
-easy to install and manage
-provide real-time access to collected data via Internet
-issue alerts to cell phones when observations exceed a value
-archives observations

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Andy Cavanagh
  • Ruth Hazard
  • Kerry Taylor

Research

Materials and methods:

Note: See the attached Project Photos PDF for pictures of all equipment and installations.

Radio Technology

We selected the network standard, ZigBee running at 2.4 GHz for testing. Sensors using ZigBee are available from a wide range of vendors and it is a low-cost, low-power, wireless mesh network standard. The low cost allows the technology to be widely deployed in wireless control and monitoring applications. ZigBee operates in the unlicensed industrial, scientific and medical radio bands; and uses a frequency of 2.4 GHz which is available in most jurisdictions worldwide. We tested ZigBee based radios from Digi Corporation (www.digi.com) Atmel (http://www.atmel.com) and Texas Instruments (www.ti.com).

Libelium Standard Hardware

At the time we wrote the proposal we could not find any vendor that fulfilled all of the above requirements. Libelium (www.libelium.com) had the best match for hardware especially the sensors, but their equipment required acquisition of additional parts and much assembly, and had no software solution for data acquisition and display. However, we located Tim Reilly of Reilly Technology (www.reillytechnology.com) who had written software that could be used with the Libelium equipment and had just started reselling it. Tim became our Technical Consultant as well.

So we ordered five sets of boards, radios and sensors for air temperature, humidity, soil temperature, soil moisture, leaf wetness and weather stations (at about $750 each). In addition we had to locate and order enclosures, hardware for mounting the boards in the enclosures, solar radiation shields for the temperature/humidity sensors, mounting poles, wood for mounting the enclosures and shields, and reflective material for shading the electronics ($50 to $75 each set). Countless hours and days were spent assembling the equipment and many more installing and testing the various software components. Software was installed on the radios (to set up the network), the sensor electronics (to set up the sensors to query and set the sampling rate), the gateway computer (RT Connect, to receive the data and upload it to the Internet), and on the cloud (RT Cirrus, to allow the user to display and report the data).

This process consumed much more time and resources than we expected and caused a significant delay in getting deployed to the fields. However in early spring we were able to deploy an air temperature/humidity sensor to the Brookfield strawberry field in time for it to be of some use in alerting the manager to the threat of freezing. We were unable to get the weather station to work reliably, even with help from the vendor, and had to abandon trying to use it. So the sensors we proceeded to deploy were our “standard set” of five sensors: air temperature, humidity, soil temperature, soil moisture and leaf wetness. For several months we had problems with the sensors “hanging” or losing contact with the gateway especially on hot days. We finally discovered that they were overheating and apart from the sensors the electronics themselves needed protection from direct sun. Adding padded reflective material helped a lot with stability.

The simplest gateway or “coordinator” (in networking terms) is plugged into the USB port of a computer which must remain on all the time to receive data from the sensors. We first tried plugging the gateway into a computer also used by the farm apprentices as a general purpose computer but we found this too unstable and had to restart the RT Connect service or the computer too many times to keep the sensor network functioning. So we changed to a cheap ($219) netbook computer (ASUS Eee PC) to be a dedicated gateway. It was plugged into the farm’s router with a LAN cable and a long USB cable ran out the window on the second floor of the barn to mount the coordinator hardware in a junction box on the outside of the barn (see the Project Photos PDF for a photo). Later research with other vendors found gateways that plug directly into the Internet router or connect via WiFi to be far more reliable.

At Brookfield, by mid-season we had placed our standard set of sensors in the West Field peas, Harnois fieldhouse tomatoes, Upper Field tomatoes and Lower Field strawberries. In addition Mr. Manire had personally acquired a Digi X4 Connectport cellular gateway (coordinator) which allowed placing a standard set in the Middle Field broccoli, peppers and eggplants field which is .7 mile from the gateway computer with about .5 mile of hardwood forest in between. The distance and interference prevented communication with the gateway by a standard radio. See photos of these installations in the Project Photos PDF.

Digi Sensors

Apart from the grant equipment we also ordered three Digi LTH (Light/Temperature/Humidity) sensors (digi.com, $108). These have relatively short range radios using internal antennas so we replaced the radio with one with an external antenna ($35). Initially these were tested in the Brookfield walk-in cooler, root cellar and greenhouse.

Reilly Technology Cygnus Sensors

After we wrote the grant proposal, Reilly Technology had started developing their own temperature/humidity sensor solution called Cygnus using a radio (Atmel) that consumes less power and has better range than that used by the Libelium products and was less expensive than the Libelium version. Given the signal strength and communication problems we had with the Libelium products we decided to acquire through the grant six Cygnus sensors that required no assembly. They only required an updated version of the RT Connect software to be placed on the gateway computer. Three of the Cygnus units were placed in the Brookfield greenhouse, root-cellar and walk-in cooler. Three others were placed in the UMass Research Farm low tunnels. In addition, the UMass Storage Project financed two more plus dedicated netbook gateway computers to monitor storage conditions at the Red Fire and Simple Gifts farms. As this happened after the Cygnus sensors were placed at Brookfield, the Brookfield Digi LTH sensors were moved to UMass, Red Fire and Simple Gifts to monitor the outside conditions.

Libelium Plug & Sense! Technology

In late October, 2012 Libelium announced a replacement for the hardware that we had ordered for the grant that completely eliminated the need for the difficult procurement of parts and complex assembly. However it was about 20% more expensive than the previous version. By this time the grant equipment budget was exhausted so Mr. Manire ordered a new Plug & Sense! with a “standard set” of sensors but because the company moved at the same time and had back order delays we weren’t able to test the new version until January, 2013. Mr. Reilly revised the gateway software (RT Connect) to use it and we tested it in-house but not in the field.

NHR Sensors

In October Mr. Manire attended a wireless sensors conference and found another vendor Nietzsche Enterprise (http://www.nhr.com.tw) or NHR that has a compatible temperature/humidity sensor that is much less expensive ($65). Mr. Manire ordered five of them and Mr. Reilly revised the gateway software to accommodate them. We were able to test them briefly in several locations at the very end of the grant period.

Final Research

As a final step in the project Mr. Manire conducted additional research to check the latest developments in the field. Since the farmer grant proposal was written we found additional vendors that now fulfill most of our requirements and less expensive than the Libelium products. The most practical vendor is Monnit Corporation, Kaysville, UT (http://www.monnit.com) but sensors are limited primarily to temperature and humidity. However a Monnit partner, Mojyle, San Jose, CA (http://www.mojyle.com/) builds on the Monnit products to include additional gateways, sensors and devices. In addition we list these vendors as worthy of consideration: Onset Computer Corporation, Bourne, MA (http://www.onsetcomp.com), Rainwise Inc., Bar Harbor, ME (http://www.rainwise.com) and AvidWireless, Bedford, TX (http://www.avidwireless.com).

See our outreach product, the website New England Farm Sensors (http://nefarmsensors.org) for detailed information.

Administration

We had proposed to have monthly on-line meetings to review results and plans. We did have one full kick-off meeting at the beginning of the project and a second meeting in midsummer 2012. Subsequently, given the many months of delays in getting sensors operational and with the difficulty in scheduling very busy people, we decided to have Mr. Manire coordinate and plan activities verbally and via regular emails. On-farm meetings to set up or fix equipment were scheduled as needed.

Research results and discussion:

Brookfield Farm

As with most projects not everything went according to plan. The sensor equipment we spent most of grant supplies money on (the Libelium Standard board) became obsolete in November and was no longer available during the project. It was replaced with a much improved, more off-the-shelf version (Plug & Sense!) but at about 20% higher cost. However with a lot of experimenting with different scenarios we were able to make the standard set Libelium sensors function albeit it late in the season. We were able to get real-time readings for the five sensors, set and receive alerts and display reports. In addition the Digi, Cygnus and NHR sensors were deployed successfully and provided useful comparisons for temperature/humidity sensors. See the next section for how the readings were used by the farmers and researchers. Also, at the very end of the project Mr. Manire acquired and was able to test recently available cellular, Ethernet and USB gateways, repeaters and sensors from Monnit and Mojyle. These proved to be the best equipment evaluated in the project and are the basis for the primary recommendations on the outreach website.

From a technical point of view we learned a lot from this equipment about how to set up and deploy wireless sensor networks including the following:

-Overheating–even if a temperature sensor itself is in a solar radiation shield, the associated electronics which do not fit in the solar radiation shield can overheat in direct sun; we found that foam reflectors of the type sold in auto parts stores for windshields make excellent, inexpensive solar and rain/irrigation shields where airflow is not important

-Batteries–lithium batteries are a must especially when it is cold; when using 15 minute observation times, batteries will generally last all growing season if the sensors sleep at low power between observations

-Interference–forests, thick vegetables, concrete floors and metal walls are very hard to penetrate with wireless signals; use routers or antenna extensions to route the signals around them

-Signal Strength–for best signal strength place antennas vertically and try to get an unobstructed line of sight between end devices/routers and the gateway; use antenna extensions to get the antenna outside of a metal enclosed walk-in for example, but extensions reduce signal strength somewhat; if the antenna is near a router or gateway then the reduced signal is not a problem; an easy way to get a USB gateway/coordinator antenna outside of a building to improve line of sight is to use a long USB cable rather than an antenna extension cable; the signal loss is much less. Another approach is to use a directional antenna such as a Yagi that focuses the signals in one direction.

-Radio Power–the power of the radio and type of antenna (external/internal) make a big difference in how far away the components of the network can be from each other. The cost is directly related to the range.

-Insects–any holes needed for air flow must be covered with screening to keep insects out; we found an entire ant colony on top of a deep cycle battery and many spider webs and cocoons in most exposed crevices and corners of our equipment that was deployed in the fields.

-Gateway Computer–these computers must be on 24/7, and ideally be dedicated so that human use doesn’t disrupt them. Turn off all automatic updates for windows, and applications, and set the power settings for the computer and hard disk to never stop both when powered and on battery; however the screen may be allowed to dim or turn off. A UPS (Uninterruptable Power Supply) is helpful especially if the computer is not a laptop. In fact increasingly available “Ethernet”or WiFi gateways eliminate this type of gateway altogether. These devices connect directly to your Internet router via a cable or WiFi. The best approach is to not use a computer for a gateway at all but select gateways that connect directly to the Internet router or connect via WiFi.

-Cellular Gateways–cellular based gateways are useful when fields are not close enough to a USB gateway but, of course, require cell tower access as well as a constant, solar charged power source. We initially installed one at Brookfield on the Small Ones potato field, but the signal level rarely exceeded one bar and was not stable enough. Moving it to the Brookfield Lower Field which was more open proved to be very stable because of better cell tower proximity.

-Routers–these must be powered all the time; when AC power was not available we were able to attach a router to a 12 volt deep cycle battery which was recharged with a 35 watt solar panel.

-Deploying Sensors–we found that farms present one of the most difficult environments for deploying sensors. Fields are scattered and often miles from Internet access and even cell tower access. Sources of interference abound. Insects, animals, tractors, dust, weather and even climbing plants are potential threats, and sensors often have to be moved after early crops are harvested. It is best to test a deployment before assuming that it will work at a particular location.

-Monitoring Conditions–the ability to monitor conditions on smart phones and send alerts to farmers we found makes a big difference in whether the sensor readings get used in a timely fashion. Vegetable farmers are extremely busy all the time so convenience is very important. Using an iPhone Brookfield was able to check readings at any time and received “push” email alerts when readings exceeded certain limits.

Results at Brookfield Farm

Soil Moisture/Leaf Wetness–We found that we did not have enough time to make significant use of the soil moisture and leaf wetness sensor readings. We would have had to correlate farmer field observations with the sensor readings and establish some guidelines for how to interpret the measurements. Leaf wetness data are most useful when run through predictive models for diseases such as late blight and early blight. Dan concluded that, for Brookfield soil moisture sensors were not useful because, in the absence of rain he waters the required crops once a week anyway and that works for him. Ryan Voiland from Red Fire Farm concurred. In a situation where water is costly or difficult to deliver this sensor could be useful but it will take further research to understand how to interpret the readings. Likewise, by the time late blight struck the tomatoes we didn’t have enough leaf wetness readings or experience in interpreting them to predict its occurrence.

Soil Temperature–Due to delays we were not able to get soil temperature readings in the spring when they would have been useful for scheduling planting of certain crops. However in the fall soil temperature readings were very helpful in scheduling the harvest of sweet potatoes. According to Dan’s log, he noted that on October 10th the soil temperature dropped from 60 to 55.5 degrees in a week thus warning him to plan to harvest earlier than expected.

Air Temperature/Relative Humidity–these were by far the most useful sensors. Some of the more interesting entries from Dan’s log are:

-received iPhone alert early in morning that Strawberry field was nearing frost conditions, took frost prevention measures April 14th

-received an email alert while I was out of town that walk-in cooler was too warm and was able to call staff and have it fixed on July 17th;

-noticed that the sensor temperature reading in the Harnois fieldhouse was at 112 degrees at noon because side roll-ups accidentally were still down; raised the roll-ups and opened the doors July 14th;

-was able to check the walk-in after a big load was put in without having to get out of bed on August 29;

-found that a sensor in the Butternut squash field showed the temperature to be four degrees colder than the local forecast and was able to take frost protection measures on Sept 16th;

-on numerous occasions found that the low temperatures in the Lower Field were four to nine degrees colder than the “local” weather forecast predicted; this was new information and will affect use of the field in the future;

-was able to check early morning temperatures from bed and avoid having to go check if the peppers needed frost protection; result, farmer got more sleep!;

-on numerous occasions was able to check temperature and humidity in greenhouse, walk-in cooler, and root-cellar to monitor vegetable storage conditions and received six iPhone alerts when temperatures exceeded limits;

-was able to assist Town of Amherst by providing a pdf of sensor readings that showed sub 28F temperatures for 2 hours at the farm which killed all mosquitoes and enabled town to lift an EEE based ban on outdoor activity October 13th.

Not only was Dan able to prevent field and storage crop problems in time but perhaps more importantly he gained peace of mind by being able to easily check conditions on his iPhone that previously would have required him or someone to check on in person.

UMass Low Tunnels Project

One of the low tunnel Cygnus temperature/humidity sensors failed in December 27, 2012. With the frozen ground and snow it was too difficult to repair. In retrospect we should have installed a “zipper” on the side of the low tunnel or used a sensor with probes that could be placed inside the tunnel so that the electronics could remain outside of the tunnel for easy repair. The failed sensor apparently had low batteries due to the fact that it was the farthest sensor from the gateway and on the edge of good radio reception and spent more power trying to connect. The batteries were replaced in the spring and the sensor started working again. The other two sensors were closer and maintained communication during the grant period. Even though the batteries were alkaline C batteries they did surprisingly well in the cold weather however we would still recommend lithium batteries.

The sensors allowed the researchers to immediately see the impact of differences in low tunnel construction. The onions tunnel used black plastic in addition to the two film covers whereas the other tunnel did not. By using the cloud software to display daily temperature range charts the impact of having the black plastic was striking. We will use the sensors to monitor temperatures in spring 2013 for timing removal of the outer plastic layer and inner row cover. See the Project Photos PDF to see these charts.

UMass Vegetable Storage Conditions Project

The two temperature/humidity sensors at Red Fire and Simple Gifts farms showed very stable and controlled temperature and humidity readings in the desirable ranges during the project. Both of these facilities were cooled and humidified with standard HVAC equipment.

The Brookfield root cellar had only a fan for air circulation and water was thrown on the floor for adding humidity. In the warm December and early January period the UMass researchers inspected the readings via the RT Cirrus cloud software and noted that the humidity was low due to the warmer temperatures in the root cellar and also found that the test carrots had lost some moisture. The farm made additional efforts to humidify the cellar and those efforts along with colder temperatures later helped stabilize the environment.

Participation Summary

Education & Outreach Activities and Participation Summary

Participation Summary

Education/outreach description:

As part of our promised outreach, we presented interim results of the project at the Northeast Organic Farming Conference at UMass, Amherst, August 10-12, 2012.

Specific recommendations resulting from this project are given in our primary outreach product the website New England Farm Sensors (http://nefarmsensors.org). This gives detailed equipment listings and vendors as well as procedures for setting up such a network. We had proposed to produce a video and PDF for our results and recommendations but realized that an ongoing website would be far more enduring and accessible as a resource to farmers and could more easily be updated as new developments occur in this rapidly changing field. Mr. Manire has set it up personally and plans to continue assisting farms in adopting the technology. But, more importantly, the site will serve as a basis for collaboration with others using the technology. It will include case studies of New England farm wireless sensor networks and links to sites to see actual real-time observations.

As proposed we also notified farming organizations of the outreach product. The organizations informed were:

UVM Veg & Berry Growers- http://www.uvm.edu/vtvegandberry
Growing For Market: http://www.growingformarket.com
PASA – http://www.pasafarming.org
NOFA VT – http://nofavt.org
MOFGA – http://www.mofga.org
NOFA – NY – https://www.nofany.org
NOFA – MA – http://www.nofamass.org
MOSES – http://www.mosesorganic.org/conference.html
ECO-FARM – http://www.eco-farm.org

Project Outcomes

Assessment of Project Approach and Areas of Further Study:

From the time we wrote this SARE grant proposal to the end of our grant period the wireless sensor network technology landscape changed becoming more useful and accessible to farmers in ways that we were not able to seriously test and evaluate in our project.

Our team has agreed to continue to work together after the grant and to include other interested parties to keep our outreach website up to date to serve as an ongoing tool to help vegetable farms adopt wireless sensors. We may seek additional funding to continue testing and evaluation.

Additional vegetable farm related improvements such as growing degree days and other IPM and farm management related displays need to be made to the cloud software programs currently available. The only agriculture related sensor vendors/consultants we’ve seen to date specialize in vineyards, nursery supply, poultry farms or “precision farming” for big Midwest monoculture crops. It is unlikely that the sensor hardware vendors will develop such additions to their cloud software so it will have to come from wireless sensor software consultants such as Mojyle which has indicated they are starting to focus as a company on low-cost farm sensors and associated software. Outside funding for vegetable farms for such vendors could speed the effort along.

In addition a collaboration with NEWA the Cornell hosted Network for Environment and Weather Applications (http://newa.cornell.edu) should be explored to see if some of the sensors we have evaluated could contribute data to the NEWA network in the future. If farmers adopting wireless sensor technology for their farm management needs were able to contribute their data to NEWA, all of the growing-degree day, disease and insect models would be available to them. A small project should be funded to determine the feasibility and programming needed. We had one conversation with the NEWA manager which indicated it would be worth exploring.

Mr. Manire is installing a wireless sensor network at Provider Farm for testing, demonstration and further evaluation (as well as for production use), and will continue to work with Brookfield and possibly the other project farms to develop ongoing production sensor networks. These efforts will serve as demonstration farms for other farmers in the area.

As these projects proceed we predict that many more small vegetable farms will adopt the technology and find it a valuable addition to their tool kits.

Potential Contributions

The main contribution from the project is our outreach product (see below) which can give farmers a head start in adopting wireless sensor technology by pointing them to vendors that provide the hardware and software and by providing practical advice on how to deploy them.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.