There is an image of farming – bucolic, peaceful, unfettered by the concerns of the technological age. It’s lovely, and many of us indulge it to some degree… but it is patently false. Agriculture is an industry moving quickly on the technology curve as markets demand more, higher-quality, and cheaper food and grains. Specialized implements, higher-horsepower machines, GPS steering, variable rate planting and spraying, and the cellphone have all had an impact on farm productivity. But that’s not all.
Courtesy of Waymo
The Robots are coming.
Look, anybody who has sat in a tractor or combine moving through the field by itself using AutoSteer has to have thought, “Do I really need to be here?” In various cities around the U.S., we have been witness to Google vehicles (and others) happily (if sometimes slowly) wheeling themselves around town, their human handlers typing away on their laptops. If they can run sedans on public roads, they can run a tractor down a row of corn. There are a lot of questions about what the first (big) bunch of farm robots will be doing, but the Japanese have been using almost completely autonomous mini-tractors for rice transplanting for years. There are a lot of people and companies testing robots around the world for farming – big ones and little ones.
Courtesy of CNH
We have been interested in robots on the farm because we had a vague sense they need a lot more data connectivity than is available in most places now. So I read this article with interest; to quote: “Internet access is a problem,” [Scott Shearer, professor and chair of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering, Ohio State University] said. “We need 10 megabits per second connection speed.” Data-gathering tools today can capture gigabytes of information that must be able to flow back to the driverless machine quickly and easily; and the machine must be able to communicate to a central location too.
In some places, cellular connectivity may be enough, but, as discussed earlier in this blog, we don’t expect cellular service to improve dramatically in rural America. And it’s going to still be expensive.
Our modest proposal: set up an AyrMesh network on your farm today for long-range WiFi. And be ready for the robots!
(NOTE: all the pictures in this post can be clicked to see at full-size).
One of the questions we get from time to time is, “What’s the best way to mount the Cab Hub in the cab?”
It’s important to be able to mount the Hub high, because the cable to the magmount antenna is relatively short, and it’s important to be able to mount it securely so it’s not banging around inside the cab. The Hub is not designed for vibration and shock, so it is also useful to isolate the Hub from the cab somewhat.
Our friends at RAM Mounting Systems, Inc. offered to help. I’m a big fan of RAM mounts, and I eagerly accepted their offer to help out. I have a RAM mount in my truck with their “X-Grip” mount for my smartphone and a suction cup. I tried mounting the Hub in it, and it did work, but it did not hold the Hub as firmly as I’d like.
The folks at RAM asked one question: “Is it affected by strong magnetic fields?” When I told them it was not, they said, “then let’s try a magnetic mount.” I told him I had a suction cup base in the truck but I didn’t want to use that in a tractor, so he sent me a “Tough-Claw” to attach to the rack in a tractor. But he also sent me a beefier suction cup for use in the truck and elsewhere.
They sent me a package consisting of the following items:
I was able to test this setup on a number of different vehicles. I went to Coastal Tractor in Salinas and they gave me the use of a New Holland T-9 4WD tractor. It was extremely easy to mount the Hub on the tractor’s rack, as shown on the left. The pieces were very simple to assemble and attach to the tubing on the tractor. Here’s a closeup of the mount:
As you can see, it’s attached with nice, large wingnuts. It was not loose and did not slip, but the rubber in the Tough-Grip and the articulation balls on the mount mean that little vibration would be transmitted to the Hub.
I put the Cab Hub Antenna on top of the tractor and plugged it into the utility power plug in the cab, and the installation was complete – it took about 10 minutes (because I had to get out and climb the other side of the tractor to install the antenna).
While I was there, I also tried mounting it successfully on an open-cab tractor they had, and put the antenna on the ROPS cage.
I had not brought along any zip-ties so I could secure the antenna cable to the ROPS, but the power cord plugged easily into the utility plug under the dashboard.
One of the most intriguing uses I have seen for the AyrMesh Cab Hub is actually for use on an All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV), so I went over to GPSports to take a look at what would be involved. They had one in the service bay they said I could mess with, so I mounted the Hub on it.The Tough-Grip was again easy to use on the tubing – the only problem was that there was no place to put the antenna where it would be high, because this ATV had no roll bar. In the parking lot, however, they had some “side-by-side” models, so I made sure the magnetic antenna worked on the roll cage.
My final test was back in the truck – I traded the Tough-Grip for the suction cup and attached the mount to the back window of my “extended cab” pickup. It has been on there for several days now, and has not yet moved.
The bottom line on all this is that a small investment in RAM mounts can make mounting your AyrMesh Cab Hub VERY easy in any Vehicle.
There’s a lot of data being collected by monitors in the cabs of tractors, sprayers, and combines, and getting that data someplace it can be used can be critical to your operation. Today we are introducing a way to connect your tractors, sprayers, combines, and trucks to your AyrMesh Network: the AyrMesh Cab Hub.
The AyrMesh Cab Hub is a combination of three things: our trusty, patent-pending AyrMesh Hub2n, a cable that allows the Hub to be powered from a normal 12 volt utility “cigarette lighter” plug, and an external magnetic-mount antenna to get the Hub’s antenna outside and up in the clear.
When it is all set up, the AyrMesh Hub2n rides inside the cab of your vehicle, protected from shock and vibration, but mounted where you can see the “signal lights” if you need to. The cable is plugged into one of the 12v utility outlets, and the antenna is put on a ferrous surface on top of the cab. The Hub connects to the other Hubs in your AyrMesh network, giving you WiFi connectivity in your cab.
The most valuable data on the farm, and some of the hardest data to move to where it can be effectively used, are the data trapped in the monitors on your machines: as-seeded, as-applied, and harvest data. Getting that data out has been laborious (moving Compact Flash cards) or expensive and uncertain (using cellular links), so we’re trying to make it easier with the AyrMesh Cab Hub.
By using the AyrMesh Cab Hub, you’ll have a strong WiFi signal in your Cab whenever you’re in range of one of your other AyrMesh Hubs – up to 2.5 miles away. This means you can use your smartphone, tablet, or laptop from the cab of your tractor, sprayer, combine, or truck. It also makes it easy to transfer data from your WiFi-equipped in-cab monitors, like an AgLeader monitor with their AgFinity adapter, using your AyrMesh network. If your equipment doesn’t currently have WiFi, talk to your dealer about it – vendors are rolling out new products all the time.
If your monitor supports WiFi data transfer, you can use your AyrMesh network to transfer data from your monitor without having to rely on expensive and unreliable cellular links.
Please let us know what you think of this new product from Ayrstone Productivity!