Gaining Knowledge

Published online: Jul 14, 2021 Articles, Irrigation, New Products Lindsay Corporation
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This article appears in the July 2021 issue of Potato Grower.

With sensors positioned at multiple locations across the irrigation pivot, we will soon be able to collect more data than ever.

“Using tower operability sensor technology, data collection and rapid processing enables real-time monitoring of system health and performance,” says Michelle Marcuzzo, software product manager at Lindsay Corporation. “What this means for growers is that the pivot will be capable of monitoring and self-diagnosing performance issues that can be relayed directly to them, or even to their dealer, in real time — giving them peace of mind and reducing downtime.”

Utilizing artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technologies, the pivot can analyze trends in the captured data to help predict component failures before they occur. Take, for example, a pivot tire. Today, if a pivot gets a flat tire, the machine shuts down on alignment fault. It doesn’t tell the grower what the actual problem is or where it is on the machine. Soon, growers will be able to watch, in real time, the pressure of a specific tire to see if it’s trending downward. The pivot could send an alert before the machine shuts down and automatically move itself to the pivot road for easier maintenance access. If desired, the machine could also link to a dealer to notify technicians that service is needed.

“Where we’re going, we’ll be able to collect a tremendous amount of data from sensors and smart devices all along the pivot and within the field — too much information to send to the cloud to process quickly and affordably,” says Kurtis Charling, director of software development at Lindsay. To overcome that challenge, Lindsay is collaborating with Microsoft to integrate edge computing with the machine, essentially giving it the power to do what it needs to do on its own.

Explaining edge computing, Charling said it’s really just bringing more computational power, data processing and data storage closer to the location where the data is generated.

“I like to explain it by basically saying you are taking a lot of the functionality you get in the cloud today and bringing this functionality directly to the field or, in this case, the pivot,” says Charling. “This significantly improves response times and saves critical bandwidth while also allowing for more processing, insights and decisions to be made locally at the pivot rather than relying on the cloud to do this. As a result, edge-of-field computing can significantly reduce data costs and increase speed and transfer of information and data.”

AI and machine learning help the pivot become self-aware, allowing it to learn by doing — thus getting better as it processes more data. Charling says that’s important because a computer can analyze far more data a lot more quickly than humans can.

“People may not realize it, but AI and machine learning are the driving forces in a lot of the tools we use every day that make our lives easier,” Charling says. “Using this technology, search engines can better predict what information you’re looking for, banks can accept deposits from smart phones, and much, much more. At Lindsay, we’re tapping into the power of AI and machine learning to help growers around the world maximize efficiency and productivity while conserving limited resources.”

Charling said the future Zimmatic pivot will collect large amounts of data, like images from a camera, and analyze them for very specific issues, such as a bug or disease spot on a leaf. The more data the software analyzes, the better it gets at identifying potential problems.

“We expect growers will continuously need to get more out of their equipment, so they can overcome their unique challenges and protect their operations for generations to come.” says Marcuzzo. “We’re pushing the boundaries of what’s possible, driving the innovations that will give them a competitive advantage today and in the future.”

In November 2020, Lindsay introduced the world’s first smart pivot, a groundbreaking innovation that moves beyond traditional water application and management to provide real-time, 360-degree crop health and operational support throughout the growing season.

To learn more about the new smart pivot and the ways in which it will change center pivot irrigation, visit www.lindsay.com/smartpivot.