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Thursday, August 17, 2017

IIoT Brings New Efficiency to Irrigation Control

Conestoga Energy’s Eagle Eye system uses InduSoft Web Studio to use water more efficiently in ethanol irrigation

  • Conestoga Energy’s Eagle Eye interface is an IIoT irrigation system that allows operators to start and stop irrigation systems and check moisture levels using satellite internet and GPS.

  • The Eagle Eye solution offers a dashboard environment that shows the status of each individual pivot at a location. The system also relays critical information like irrigation patterns and water pressure.

  • As a result, starch and water content can be guaranteed for shipping. For producers, there’s better control over irrigation, which saves immensely on water costs and prevents loss of crops due to incorrect water levels.

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and the Agricultural Internet of Things (AIoT) play a significant role in the agricultural industry thanks to the IoT’s ability to offer real-time data acquisition for remote components, centralized data storage, data analytics, and the ability to access data from any device connected to the internet. 

The IIoT architecture is defined as a system which adds internet connectivity to formerly dumb devices and collects them in a centralized location for analytics and coordination with other systems. Collecting and correlating the data allows operators to communicate with both users and other devices, and enables intelligent decision making. 

The IIoT is not a localized revolution in control systems. Germany is investing heavily in Industrie 4.0, or the fourth industrial revolution. China’s strategy for IIoT is called Made in China 2025. Most industrialized nations and many developing ones are exploring the capabilities of connected intelligent systems. Research firm Gartner predicts that we will see 26 billion connected devices by 2020

The United States’ agriculture industry is facing challenges that necessitate increased efficiency in order to maintain competitiveness. Water use and control is especially important in areas that are subject to drought and increasing demand and consumption of water. Agriculture is rapidly embracing IoT across many aspects of the industry, from water use, ethanol production, automated tractors, and weather analysis. 

Even hardy crops like corn can be damaged by an excess or a deficiency of water or soil saturation. The Agricultural Internet of Things offers one solution to this challenge with an integration of mapping services and sensor observation services to provide a solution to water management for agriculture. The Agricultural Internet of Things smartly analyzes the water needs of crops and uses the scarce water resources as efficiently as possible to avoid 
water waste. 

Conestoga Energy’s patented Eagle Eye interface is a satellite driven system that allows operators to start and stop irrigation systems and check moisture levels. The goal of the system is the ability to engineer the grain that comes to Conestoga and automate moisture levels for maximum efficiency in ethanol production. The area frequently experiences drought conditions, and it’s important to conserve water whenever possible. Automation helps accomplish a more efficient use of water by ensuring that water isn’t used as liberally if the soil doesn’t need it.

Producers can also analyze corn to make a good estimate of the Ethanol yields. This level of automation is crucial to operations, so all the information that comes to the farmers is tied to Conestoga’s cloud. Conestoga has its own cloud and offers internet to rural areas in order to send and receive data from these farms. It works well for everyone, because the farmers have access to technology that makes them more efficient, and Conestoga is able to ensure the quality of the corn they receive for Ethanol production. Even the state of Kansas can view the water usage, and plants can send corn directly to feedlots. Many systems are tied together to reduce waste and ensure a top quality end product.

The Challenge

The infrastructure required to provide an IIoT solution is fairly large. Not every agribusiness can act as an ISP and provide an exclusive cloud. However, companies such as Amazon and Microsoft are now offering cloud services to businesses that need the infrastructure for a semi-private cloud without necessarily investing in all the equipment themselves. 

For the Eagle Eye system, Conestoga Energy required more than cloud infrastructure. They also needed SCADA/HMI software capable of linking the multi-source data from remote locations into one interface where it could be analyzed, and equipment could be controlled remotely. 

The largest requirement for the project was a platform flexible enough to scale to include the large numbers of devices required for IIoT infrastructure, as well as be able to handle the Big Data for the project. New equipment could be added at any time, and the 250+ native communication protocols included with InduSoft Web Studio meant it would be possible to scale to any size necessary and easily incorporate new hardware. 

Another factor when choosing the SCADA platform included ensuring security for the Eagle Eye system. Conestoga Energy required security features such as encryption, intellectual property protection, and user and group authentication. 

Other factors that influenced the final decision were the availability of thin clients, remote alarm notification, and a platform agnostic architecture that would allow the application to run on a variety of operating systems. The ease of development and configuration also played a deciding role. Because InduSoft Web Studio offers an intuitive, easy to use development environment, it was possible to create a system that could be used with minimal training. 

After testing multiple software solutions, Conestoga Energy chose InduSoft Web Studio - the only SCADA/HMI software capable of performing all necessary functions with the flexibility and scalability to add new features and equipment as needed. 


The Solution

The Eagle Eye solution offers a dashboard environment that allows producers to see the status of each individual pivot at a location. The system also relays critical information like irrigation patterns, water pressure, and vital information for each pivot. 

At the level of each pivot, users can access more granular information such as starts and stops. They can also control the direction of the pivot, or send notifications when a pivot is in position or when it has completed a revolution. 

The water probe network notifies farmers how much water they’re adding to the soil and how well the water is penetrating the ground. This allows them to determine whether or not the water is at levels suitable to the root system, and whether irrigations levels are sufficient. The system helps prevent overwatering and allows operators to ensure that water is used efficiently in areas that are increasingly drought stricken. 

The Eagle Eye system also monitors the meters and pumps that operate in the irrigation units. All devices are monitored by the same system, so farmers can see totals at a glance and gauge the impact of irrigation. In the meter screen, they can check the levels of the water table. Context shows the inverse correlation between the water levels and the amount of irrigation. The system also monitors rainfall. This data can be further analyzed to see how well rain is replenishing the aquifers for future watering. 

The system also includes an interactive map that shows each pivot at a glance, and then includes more information on individual pivots when clicked. Producers can also configure their equipment settings on the fly with a smartphone or internet connected device. 

The Eagle Eye system is built on an InduSoft Web Studio SCADA platform, with use of the Studio Toolkit for additional functionality. The system uses IIS (ASP .Net), and communicates with a Microsoft SQL server and proprietary Eagle Eye software. 

Each pivot communicates over cellular networks to an OPC server. The OPC server relays the information to the InduSoft Web Studio SCADA system, which shares control data back and forth, and then stores and records alarms, events, trend data, and other information to the SQL database.

The .ASP application pulls live tag data from the InduSoft Web Studio application and uses data stored in the SQL database. User devices connect directly to the .ASP application through HTTP. This is what allows for a truly cross-platform system. Eagle Eye can connect to any web browser that supports JavaScript. InduSoft Web Studio controls communications to remote devices via OPC, collects process data and communicates with the SQL server using patented SQL database technology. InduSoft Web Studio also controls operational logic and controls for the pivots, as well as alarm and event emails. 

The Results

The returns for the system have been enormous, both for producers and for Conestoga Energy. For Conestoga Energy, the biggest benefit is quality control of the grain. Starches and water content can be guaranteed for shipping. For producers, there’s better control over irrigation, which saves immensely on water costs and prevents loss of crops due to incorrect water levels. 

Thanks to the State of Kansas, every water well in the state will have water meters. Conestoga Energy hopes to add more analytics to the Eagle Eye system such as weather information, and motor speeds in pivots based on water pressure. Future additions will include alarms that can be sent to the state if water usage is above acceptable levels. They will also add capabilities to measure the impact of one well on others downstream, as well as gauge impacts of rainfall. 

Conestoga Energy hopes to expand the Eagle Eye system soon to include remote telemetry for oil wells.

For more information contact your local distributor or InduSoft directly at info@indusoft.com or 877-INDUSOFT (877-463-8763) or 512-349-0334.

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