In Roeslare (Roulers in French), better known by the name “Potato Valley,” potato producers have a particular fondness for AVR's machines and technologies, which mean they can plant and harvest potatoes more efficiently. More and more of AVR's machines are equipped with sensors that are connected to the internet (IoT This technology provides farmers with various interesting perspectives, optimizes maintenance and functioning, and helps provide greater insight into agricultural processes. Microsoft's Azure Cloud is the platform on which these operations are carried out.
Reliability is crucial
Koen Uyttenhove is AVR's new IoT Manager, and is responsible for driving innovation within the family business, which was founded in 1849 and employs 154 members of staff in Belgium and the Netherlands and has a turnover of 53 million euros. AVR has set itself the goal of making farmers’ lives easier by creating a larger marketable harvest. AVR is what is known as a “full-liner” company, which means that it develops and offers the full range of machines that potato producers may need, such as planters, harvesters, and machines for working the soil
These machines require a considerable investment and, due to their nature, they are only used intensely during peak periods. Some machine subcontracting companies lease them out or offer them for hire. The challenge is that during harvest time, for example, everyone uses these machines very intensively: Reliability is, therefore, crucial. AVR is constantly working to find solutions in this sector and will soon fully launch the use of IoT sensors in its machines in order to store the machines’ data in the cloud and develop machines that are even more intelligent.
Our goal is to make the lives of potato producers easier. (Koen Uyttenhove, IoT Manager, AVR)
To measure is to know
AVR Connect – the tool currently under development – reads the sensors’ parameters and can also, for example, measure crop yields. Therefore, farmers have a heat map of their fields on their computer: The red points call for special attention while the green parts are in order in terms of their yield. As a result, farmers can optimize the cultivation and fertilization of their land. Likewise, they also take into account the machines’ traction on the soil, another extremely important element in evaluating soil quality.
Of course, this tool isn't restricted to these measurement operations. The sensors work using GPS technology, accurate to the nearest centimeter – obviously much more precise than the GPS units found in our cars or smartphones. This means that they have many more functionalities, which can be added to straight away or in the future.
At the moment, we don't yet have the capability to carry out predictive maintenance, but we are not too far away if we keep collecting enough data from the machines. (Koen Uyttenhove, IoT Manager, AVR)
Anticipate maintenance and problems
Koen Uyttenhove stresses that the machines are subjected to heavy use during a short period of time. Maintenance operations and preventative work are therefore of utmost importance. he sensors collect data on various aspects of the machines which are essential for maintenance technicians, such as the distance covered, consumption, and traction force.
All of these data are collected by IoT sensors and a stored in Microsoft's Azure cloud. This process will enable other applications in the future. To this end, AVR is collaborating hand-in-hand with a technical partner – Delaware – but the collaborators are also closely following the development internally.
We use Microsoft's Azure cloud at AVR because we love its ease of use and its scalability. (Koen Uyttenhove, IoT Manager, AVR)
AVR Connect has already been awarded ‘ICT Digital Project of the Year.’ This tool perfectly illustrates just how much intelligent use of data can give companies a competitive advantage and help the sector by marrying computing with agriculture, two areas which at first glance seem to have nothing in common.