Early adoption of on-farm ‘Internet of Things' (IoT) sensor networks to alert and notify farmers to improve farm security

Rural crime is increasing, with the 2020 NFU Report on Crime showing that theft from farms cost Welsh farmers £2.6m in 2019. This was an increase of 11% from the previous year. A large number of thefts occur at night, making it less likely for criminals to be seen and as a result, some crimes are not noticed until the farmer carries out their daily duties. This creates a large time gap for police to investigate with a larger gap increasing the amount of time officers spend investigating. 

Due to the isolated location of many farms it has traditionally been difficult to effectively implement security devices on farms. However, long range wide area network (LoRaWAN) gateways can now be used to tackle traditional connectivity issues and provide a reliable network for real-time information to be generated. The technology enables devices to communicate with one another by sending small yet frequent amounts of data over distances of up to 15km pending on line of sight. LoRaWAN sensors can be programmed to deliver an alert to a farmer notifying them that an asset has moved that could address issues such as reducing vehicle, fuel and livestock theft.

This two year project will be trialling the use of LoRaWAN sensors to improve on-farm security across five farms in north Wales. North Wales Police will also be working closely on the project as this technology could provide them with valuable information such as a timestamp to aid them during the critical first hours of a reported crime or incident.

Two areas will be prioritised in the project:

  1. Farm equipment – Valuable farm equipment such as quadbikes, trailers etc. will be fitted with a tracking sensor which can alert the farmer if they are moving during certain hours. The sensor will then track the location of the vehicle or equipment whilst it is within range of the farm. This could be developed further if a wider network of LoRaWAN gateways is established across Wales and the UK as stolen equipment could be picked up by other gateways and its movement tracked further from the farm.
  2. Monitoring the open/close status of various on-farm infrastructure - Sensors will be installed on the doors and gates of priority farm buildings which will allow the farmer to monitor when they are open and closed. This can prove particularly useful for farmers whose fields have a public footpath running near or through a farm yard. For a sensor installed on a field gate, alerts can be programmed to be sent to a mobile device enabling the farmer to respond quickly. Additionally, it would notify farmers if a gate was opened in event of livestock theft, and provide a timestamp.

LoRaWAN technology has been highlighted for a few years now as having high potential for use in agriculture. However, one of the largest barriers to uptake has been seeing the application of it. This project will showcase how it can be used in a security setting. The results will provide proof of concept that these devices can be used to monitor valuable farm assets, which can be built upon by innovative farmers and IT professionals into a full security alerting system.