Into the field

I read the instructions on how to install the sensor. It seemed easy enough. I had been working with our grower for several months, so I knew if I had any problems he would be there to help. He did remind me that the drip tape for irrigation was located in the center of the row, 12 inches deep. I was not to get close enough to nick, cut or disturb it. Got it. He had never used any field sensors, so these were my babies. He gave me the freedom to test anything I wanted in his fields, but he said, once again, the sensors were my responsibility.

It was early in the season, they had just planted the tomato seedlings so I was good to go to start putting in the sensors. The first challenge was to install the base station for the sensors. The instructions said, “plug it in”. “Plug it in”? My thought was ‘in where’. The field is 60 acres, the next field was the same, as was the next. The farmer’s shop barn was two miles away. There were some farmhouses in between, but I had no idea who those folks were.

That was the point where I realized that there are so many underlying issues to using sensors in agriculture.

Preplanning the installation of a sensor is a huge part of good sensor performance. Since there are so many types of connectivity, you need to think through a power source, distance, and type of signal. If possible test the signal before installation. Nothing is worse than carrying all the installation equipment a quarter of a mile into a field in full sun and 90º and you put in the sensor and nothing. Remember the carpenter’s rule, “Measure twice, cut once”. The same goes for installing sensors. Test twice, at least, install once.

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