HomeInternet of Things (IoT)OnFarm teams with ThingWorx to optimize precision agriculture

OnFarm teams with ThingWorx to optimize precision agriculture

There are a number of variables that can impact a farmer’s yield, from variations in temperature to soil composition. IoT deployments allow all of these aspects to be outfitted with sensors that send relevant information to a farmer’s PC or tablet. However, all varying data being collected for massive fields of crop needs a way to be viewed together in real-time in a comprehensive and easy-to-digest fashion. In 2012, OnFarm and ThingWorx teamed up to create an industrial internet of things  agricultural management service that optimizes the effectiveness of monitoring devices, making it easier for farmers to get the most out of their land.

farming IoT
source: SGVNProjects/Youtube

As with any business, the goal of agricultural and farm management is to drive profitability. To do so in agriculture requires optimizing three key variables: production yield, cost, and risk avoidance, and having a real-time big picture for optimizing each variable for maximum profitability, according to OnFarm.

The difficulties of farming and IoT

Farming can be incredibly unpredictable, and every little variable acting on crop can have a major impact on production. With increasing costs of land and decreasing availability, is it as important as ever that farmers get the most out of their property. Coupled with the need to supply the growing global demand for commodities arising from developing economies and world population growth, a top ranking issue among farmers, it becomes clear just how important it is to optimize yield and rate of output.

And while sensor technology has come a long way in recent years, there are still challenges with interoperability – getting them to work together in order to paint an all-encompassing picture of what is going on out on the farm. Data from one sensor platform is often incompatible with data from other resources, this lack of integrate means there is no way to extract actionable real-time information.

The combined challenge of analyzing these incompatible and now large, growing, data sets, as well as an inability to correlate the data and create actionable events, had created an agricultural technology environment that failed to maximize potential smart, connected product value.

The solution to optimize precision agriculture

OnFarm launched a software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution that would bring together all of the data being collected in an environment, and provide real-time data-driven reports to increase a farmer’s visibility over their operation.

source: OnFarm
source: OnFarm

The company determined that its product needed to be a “dashboard-driven connected services utilizing an IoT backend” that would accomplish several things:

  • Easily collect data from incompatible sensors via wireless networks
  • Provide a means to integrate, analyze, and correlate different data sets of information into easily-understood and easy-to-customize reports leading to specific actionable outcomes
  • Manage end-user permissions, distribute reports and business intelligence through a customizable Web interface that would include dashboards, allowing custom organization of data applicable to the business employing OnFarm’s suite of services

OnFarm wanted to be the first to the market, but required expensive engineering resources, and an extensive time to build out the platform. So in early 2012 they went on a search for an IoT application platform, and chose ThingWorx. According to OnFarm, ThingWorx was able to capture, manage, and scale sensor data from multiple sources, and used two-way communications with field sensors and remote devices, while enabling easy integration with third party APIs from the hardware vendors. It allowed the company to quickly build IoT applications, dashboards, and multi data-sourced mashups for its own customers.

So OnFarm developed and built its custom front end in Angular and JavaScript for its business intelligence dashboards, and utilized ThingWorx’ Mashup Builder to manage devices, streams, and end-user permissions that simplify usage for its customers.

The payoff

“By leveraging the ThingWorx platform we estimate that OnFarm saved at least several million dollars in development and engineering costs and gained a great deal of time-to-market advantage and benefit,” said Lance Donny, CEO of OnFarm. “Further, we believe that PTC’s well thought out PTC-ThingWorx integration now leaves ThingWorx well positioned to stay two steps ahead of what OnFarm requires.”

Donny notes the following key drivers that will continue to provide significant business value and opportunities for OnFarm:

  •  OnFarm saved an estimated several million dollars in development cost and gained significant time-to-market advantages. Working in the field directly with customers and partners, rather than being behind closed doors in engineering mode, was critical to developing OnFarm’s own customer deliverables.
  • ThingWorx has a highly responsive team in place. For well over two years, the two companies held a weekly call, and OnFarm constantly pushed the ThingWorx team on both performance and enhancement issues. It was critical to OnFarm that ThingWorx was willing to invest a great deal of effort to quickly solve platform challenges OnFarm would uncover in the field.

OnFarm currently targets businesses with at least 100 acres and usually much more, but can now begin targeting smaller businesses thanks to ThingWorx.

“Without ThingWorx, none of it would be possible for OnFarm to effectively deliver,” Donny said.

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