6 December 2021
Sensors on trial at an Anglesey dairy farm to assist with slurry-spreading operations have the potential to help the industry with future pollution prevention regulations.
Erw Fawr, a Farming Connect demonstration site near Holyhead, is using sensors linked to LoRaWAN (Low Power Long Range Wide Area Access Network) radio frequency to detect when ground conditions are suitable to apply slurry.
This work is taking place with funding support from the European Innovation Programme (EIP) Wales. The project’s EIP broker, Geraint Hughes, of the Lafan Consulting Group, said the goal was to help farmers minimise the risk of run-off pollution from slurry applications. This, he said, could be very relevant to the discussion over the future of the Control of Agricultural Pollution regulations in Wales.
“If farmers can prove that they are monitoring applications through the use of sensors, it has the potential to offer flexibility with future regulation implementation,’’ he told farmers during a recent Farming Connect open day at Erw Fawr.
Mr Hughes believes the trial at Erw Fawr is the first in the UK to use LoRaWAN for this purpose on a commercial farm.
“This is at the cutting edge of technology,’’ he said.
Fields at Erw Fawr were scanned for nutrient levels and soil type before the sensors were placed in the soil. The probes measure soil moisture and temperature, air temperature and rainfall. The raw data is validated and cleansed before being applied to a programme that can generate notifications against a pre-determined set of parameters.
The technology has now been in position for five months, and the data is being analysed. Mr Hughes said the project was working towards developing a ‘RAG’ (red, amber and green) system to indicate the suitability of a field for applying slurry.
Farming Connect has installed LoRaWAN gateway devices with a small antenna attached to farm buildings on all its demonstration sites. These devices can connect to a myriad of sensors that collect data and relay it to dashboards on mobile phones and other devices, making analysis by a farmer straightforward.
“LoRaWAN is unlicensed, so it is a wonderful opportunity for people to develop products for their own use or on farms locally,’’ said Mr Hughes.
This project has received funding through the Welsh Government Rural Communities - Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government.