Connected silos: a solution to monitor and control your industrial assets
To meet the ever-increasing demand, farmers and food suppliers must adapt and produce more. The growing world population is leading to intensive food consumption that needs to be controlled. To achieve this, sensors and the Internet of Things (IoT) come into play.
An increasing number of agricultural professionals are using technological solutions to better control and monitor their production. Among these solutions, food producers and suppliers now have the possibility to install intelligent sensors in their IBCs, silos and tanks in order to optimize their yield, monitor merchandise or facilitate inventory management.
How does the connected silo work? Who is this solution for? Still a recent and little-known field, here’s everything you need to know about how connected silos work, the advantages or even the price of connected silos.
The connected silo: definition and principle of operation
At first glance, agriculture and technology are two very different fields. However, when the two fields combine, the merger makes it possible to propose new solutions to optimize yields and achieve new performances. But then how can a silo or any other container such as an IBC or a tank become connected? How does the solution work in practice?
Probes and sensors: IoT at the service of agriculture
Connected objects or the Internet of Things IoT) are more and more present in our daily life to facilitate multiple tasks. We can mention in particular the connected enclosure capable of answering questions or programming all kinds of actions.
The first connected object was designed in the 80s: a Coca-Cola dispenser connected to the internet, which allowed its users to control the status of the machine. Years later, the technology was perfected to offer similar solutions in various fields, including agriculture.
Thus, a connected silo is a silo that will have a connected sensor, i.e. a sensor connected to the Internet. The sensor allows :
- to collect, store and process data: the sensor transforms physical data (brightness, temperature, movement, etc.) into digital data;
- to communicate data: thanks to the internet connectivity, the sensor can send the collected data ;
- to receive instructions to carry out an action: always thanks to the internet, it is possible to remotely launch certain actions thanks to the connected sensor.
The sensor works independently thanks to a battery designed to last about ten years. The sensor is installed on the foot of the silo, between 0.5 and 1.5 m high and is covered with a thermal protection to protect it from possible shocks.
Control and monitoring of silos using new technologies
All the specificity of a connected silo obviously lies in its connectivity. But then how does it work?
In the case of an IoT, connectivity is provided by a radio antenna that allows communication between the object and different networks. This process follows the same principle as a technological object capable of connecting through the Bluetooth network for example. However, connected silo sensors use other means of communication than our cell phones. This has one main advantage: not to depend on the coverage of the territory which sometimes leaves something to be desired.
Thus, sensor communication is made possible thanks to wireless networks such as ZigBee for mini private networks, Sigfox for greater coverage at very low speed or LoRa based on long range radio waves. These networks allow to transmit data at low speed but over a long range while requiring little energy.
Important point: the network is secure. Professionals can therefore be reassured that their data is confidential.
This connectivity then allows to communicate a lot of information such as :
- the identity of the object (useful when you have different silos connected);
- the state of the object (geographical location, filling, temperature, etc.).
Thanks to the connectivity, the sensor can launch real-time alerts to monitor and control its goods. The information collected by the connected silo sensor can be consulted at any time via an application on an Android and iOS compatible smartphone.
On the other hand, communication can be established in the other direction, i.e. from the user to the connected silo. Thus, the sensor can remotely receive action commands and data.
Who is the connected silo solution for?
You have certainly understood it: the connected silo is a great tool to control goods. But then who can benefit from this tool? Who needs a connected silo?
Working for IBCs, silos or tanks, the connected solution will therefore benefit all trades using these types of containers to store seeds, grain or other bulk products. Thus, the connected silo can be a tool for :
- Farmers wishing to optimize and monitor their stock ;
- breeders storing feed for their cows, sheep, horses, pigs, etc. ;
- agricultural cooperatives in order to share data with all members of the cooperative ;
- food suppliers to better control inventory management.
The monitoring areas of the connected silo
The connected silo offers various services to agriculture and food professionals. One of its services concerns the monitoring and security of the products stored in the silos. But then, what can be monitored via a connected silo?
The connected silo allows first of all to control the stock level at any time. The sensor integrated in the silo then transforms the physical movement data of the goods into digital data which is then transmitted via the network to the farmer or breeder.
This represents a powerful tool to enable agricultural professionals to ensure their logistics management much more easily when this task is often constraining and not very rewarding. The stock statements are optimized, but also much more frequent. Orders can be placed automatically and the connected silo will avoid manual checks: farmers can thus save precious time in taking care of their land or their livestock.
Be alerted in real-time
The second aspect related to the monitoring provided by a connected silo is the possibility to be warned in real time when an anomaly is detected. Thus, the owner of the connected silo can receive an alert when a threshold is exceeded or an abnormal temperature is detected.
This allows you to choose a threshold to control your process according to your needs. You will be able to define several thresholds to be alerted when you reach them. Concretely, here is what the sensor of the connected silo can allow you:
- you receive an alert when one of your connected silos reaches a predefined threshold (20% for example) ;
- the application or the message wizard offers you to place an order to fill it in;
- you choose among several niches ;
- the delivery appointment is confirmed.
Good to know: the sensor accuracy of a connected silo varies between 5 and 10%. This makes the sensor more reliable than a volume probe, whose measurement varies greatly depending on the density and flow of the feed in the silo.
Why is the connected silo advantageous?
Now that you know how a connected silo works, why choose to monitor its silos with a sensor? More than a gadget, the connected silo is a real tool to improve storage and replenishment processes.
Never run out of stock and avoid urgent deliveries
The first advantage of the connected silo is that it can be alerted when a container exceeds a predefined threshold. This means that there is no need to be surprised at the last moment when the goods are needed quickly.
For example, having a connected silo means that farmers or ranchers don’t have to place urgent orders. The same is true for cooperatives, which also often have to meet delivery deadlines. The connected silo is an additional security and allows for better stock control.
Continuous and automatic replenishment
The connected silo also allows for automated replenishment. No need to worry about stocks since the connected silo will take care of warning itself when thresholds are exceeded. The process goes further than just alerting, as it also makes it possible to propose slots for replenishment.
The deliveries are thus more continuous and automatic which brings many advantages such as :
- optimization of orders to benefit from the best prices;
- the possibility of being delivered at the best time, during off-peak periods ;
- Avoid stock-outs on Sundays or holidays.
Avoid manual control
Another significant advantage: the connected silo eliminates the need for manual stock checks. There is no need to check the stock level yourself, since the sensor does this itself.
The owners of connected silos can therefore know the filling level of the silos at any time and from a distance. This is very practical since professionals no longer need to travel and carry out the sometimes tedious monitoring themselves. Not having to climb to the top of the silos to carry out stock control saves energy and time for other tasks. This is a significant advantage when you know the multitude of tasks that have to be carried out to manage a farm complex.
Improving customer service
Successfully automating deliveries and benefiting from reminders through the sensor application or service also allows the deliverymen to improve their customer service.
By offering more punctual deliveries, at the right time, customer satisfaction is improved.
Easy installation and use
To connect a silo, the process is relatively simple. The same applies to the use of the services offered by the sensor. Thus, the installation of a sensor is within everyone’s reach.
The sensor is installed at the feet of the silo by means of two screws inserted in threaded holes. This means that the silo does not need to be lifted, even if the sensor has to be installed by an authorized person in order to guarantee its correct operation.
The price of a connected silo
You would like to benefit from the many advantages we have just mentioned, but you are afraid that you will not be able to offer you the services of a connected silo? There is still a question. Owning connected silos: how much does it cost?
To calculate the price of a connected silo, the price of the sensor as well as the annual subscription per silo must be taken into account.
The cost of the sensor is depreciable over 5 years and represents a monthly TCO between 5 and 10 € per silo. These operating costs correspond to the subscription to the communication network, to the artificial intelligence responsible for predicting the filling level of the silos, to the platform software, to the mobile application and to the after-sales service.
The return on investment is achieved over approximately 3 years.< /
Agriculture today and tomorrow: a connected agriculture
In order to meet new contemporary challenges, but also to look to the future, agriculture is increasingly becoming connected agriculture. Thus, connected objects serving agriculture are multiplying more and more and are more and more present in the lives of farmers and breeders.
Modern technologies have indeed made it possible to develop intelligent solutions to optimize the work of farmers such as :
- Sensors for plants, fruit trees, greenhouses able to collect data on brightness, temperature, humidity, pH, etc…;
- drones equipped with sensors used for mapping agricultural land ;
- Connected collars for cattle to monitor the animal’s state of health.
More and more technological innovations are being introduced to enable professionals to optimize their performance and make their work easier. Tomorrow’s agriculture is thus more intelligent and more connected.