Since 2019, Terabee has been working with SmartFarm Systems to digitize feed levels in the agriculture sector, with hundreds of silos already equipped with Terabee optical Time-of-Flight sensing technology, replacing outdated level measurement sensors.
SmartFarm Systems, a Michigan-based smart agriculture and IoT solution provider, needed a solution for level estimation of animal feed stored in silos on livestock farms. SmartFarm Systems had been using level measurement sensors based on ultrasound technology to approximate remaining material levels in silos, to help farmers know their animal feed stock and allow them to better plan for future replenishments.
A few problems with ultrasound were identified – the sensors often did not measure the bottom part of the silo due to maximum range limitations and received data was sometimes unreliable and misleading due to acoustic signals bouncing inside the metallic silos. Moreover, the dusty silo interiors meant that SmartFarm Systems needed a solution that was not affected by dust.
The Terabee solution
Terabee’s LED Time-of-Flight sensor technology was selected to benchmark against the ultrasound sensors. It was integrated within the larger SmartFarms Systems silo inventory monitoring solution, to provide real-time level measurement data directly from the silos.
Several months of extensive testing followed, across a number of animal feed silos and numerous refill cycles. The optical Time-of-Flight technology outperformed the ultrasound and it solved the limitations of the previous sensing solution.
Says Eric Sietsema, Managing Director, SmartFarm Systems, “In addition to addressing our existing problems for level measurements, we were impressed by how well the optical Terabee sensor performed in these quite dusty and often dirty scenarios.
“To be sure of that, we even performed extensive lab tests, exposing the sensor to large amounts of dust clouds, which resulted in unchanged sensor performance. All of this gave us the confidence that moving forward with Terabee is the right choice for us.”
LED Time-of-Flight technology benefits
- Best performance versus cost ratio in the market
- Light reflects off most solid and liquid surfaces
- Non-intrusive level measurements, avoid risk of contamination
- Small form-factor, ideal for OEM integration
- Solid state technology, with no parts prone to breakage
- Narrow Field-of-View (2 degrees), ideal for taller silos
New interface development
An important requirement for SmartFarm Systems was to communicate level data from the level measurement sensors on top of the silos via Pulse Width Modulation protocol. With this signal modulation the width of the pulse corresponds to specific data values, encoded at the silo and decoded at the point of data reception. Terabee agreed to develop a Pulse Width solution, in cooperation with SmartFarm Systems.
For SmartFarm Systems this brings the advantage that data can be communicated over longer distances, for example, from silos which are sometimes several hundred meters away.
“At that time Terabee sensors did not support Pulse Width protocol. Changing the interface in our systems would have been very costly and time consuming for us. After technically validating the Terabee ToF technology in the field, we asked Terabee if they could customize the pulse width interface for their sensing platform. We quickly engaged in a development with initial prototypes delivered within a few weeks. This allowed us to validate the new sensor in a lean method, after which we went for our initial volume deployment,” says Eric Sietsema.
Eric Sietsema adds, “In addition, the Terabee team was always reactive and available for support when we needed them, which made our work relationship easy and reliable.”
Robert Rabcevskis, Product Manager, Terabee, says, “SmartFarm Systems were very clear on their objectives and desired outcomes, which meant that we were able to move forward quickly and effectively. Based on experience and deep market testing we had confidence that our technology was the right solution, and more effective than ultrasound, especially for mid- to long-range measurements.”
Feed inventory monitoring at its best
For SmartFarm Systems real-time feed inventory data is now collected by Terabee level measurement sensors on top of silos and sent to the SmartFarm Systems platform. This gives farmers the unique ability to view bulk, solid or liquid tank inventories from anywhere in the world.
With access to the actual inventory levels and daily onsite use of bulk products, this Terabee-enabled SmartFarm Systems solution brings the following benefits:
- Better management of farm equipment via informed decision-making
- Reduced costs related to regular, physical visits to check feed levels
- Improved staff safety (no more climbing silos)
- Eliminated human error related to inaccurate remaining feed estimation
- Peace of mind for knowing when to reorder more feed
About SmartFarm Systems
SmartFarm Systems, based in Michigan, United States, enables farmers to stay connected to all of their farming operations and equipment by providing tools and multiple end-to-end IoT solutions. These range from remote feed silo monitoring, livestock performance tracking, to on-farm alarm management and feed mill point of sale and accounts receivable solutions.
To date, the SmartFarm Systems team has equipped several hundred feed silos on livestock farms and at feed mills with their feed inventory monitoring solution, which includes the Terabee optical Time-of-Flight level measurement sensors. In addition to new site installations, an ongoing campaign is running to swap previous ultrasound sensors with the new Terabee sensing platform for improved performance.
“We just like how reliable and accurate the measurement data coming from Terabee sensors is, compared to what we had before. This gives our clients peace of mind when monitoring feed levels in silos and planning their next orders,” says Eric Sietsema.
“The market potential for feed inventory monitoring here in the United States is huge, and we definitely see this expanding in the next few years. We look forward to continuing working with Terabee, and equipping more feed silos across the United States.”
Robert Rabcevskis adds, “Thanks go to the SmartFarm Systems team and to their proactivity. We are happy to have built a close relationship, based on transparency and regular feedback loops for continuous product improvement.”
Agent for US market
With SmartFarm Systems years of experience working with US farm sites, feed mills and their technical expertise in the deployment of a variety of connected solutions for better farm management, Terabee has recruited SmartFarm Systems as a Terabee product agent for the US market. The focus is on the level monitoring application in agriculture.
Want to know more?
Contact Terabee if you’re an integrator or a solution provider looking for sensors and sensing solutions for level monitoring in silos or tanks.
For any level sensor or sensing solution needs for your agricultural silos, in the United States, please feel free to contact SmartFarm Systems directly to discuss your project.