Anytime, anywhere

01/01/2008 02:00:00 AM

"It's live from wherever you are at any time," Sommers says.

That's a boon when farming a mix of owned, rented and land-swapped acreage spread across six counties.

"It's hard to have a system in place that's bulletproof and uniform across the land base," he says.

Irrigation managers and operators used to spend too many hours traveling to and from each pivot to keep the system running.

"Five years ago I had six guys doing what three are doing today babysitting (control) panels," .Sommers says.

The change means his manpower now goes further -- and the company spends much less on fuel and vehicle maintenance.

Alerts can be sent to multiple people, ensuring immediate attention and reducing downtime, Sommers says.

A more intangible benefit is improving employee work situations, he says. Operators who once put in long hours away from home now can enjoy camping weekends or other family activities while continuing to monitor system status remotely.

Wireless systems also improve precision. "You can put on just one lap of water when you need it rather than over- or under-applying water," Emmerson says.

That can be crucial when water is scarce. "We've been in a moderate drought situation where we've done a lot of watering," Sommers says. Yet periods of peak electricity demand may force usage restrictions and shutdowns during irrigation cycles.

Shifting watering schedules at short notice without interruption is a breeze thanks to the remote control features, he says.

The system stores irrigation and chemigation data for later study.

"We have our true costs on a weekly basis for water and power," Emmerson says.

As a processor, Watts Brothers also needs trace and recall ability going back to the field. "That's required by a lot of our customers," he says.

Records that tie into yield and other crop data help improve future management decisions. Adding automated sensor devices, such as moisture sensors and rain gauges, are among Sommers' 2008 goals.

An up-front investment

Lindsay offers two tiers of FieldNET service. Advanced service allows users to monitor such features as pivot direction, percentage rate, and water and accessory status, but to control only pivot start and stop. Premier service adds more controls and incorporates integrated sensors to monitor temperature, water pressure, and water and chemical flow.

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