Aug. 31--A Beavercreek technology startup has launched a sensor-based monitoring system to bring Ohio's$4 billion annual farming industry into the smartphone era.
PrecisionLSF's Smart Barn system uses up to 100 in-barn wireless sensors on existing equipment such as power, water and feeding systems. The technology helps farmers protect their animals, produce and grains through remote monitoring and alerts via their smartphone or tablet computer, said Andrew Klein, the company's owner and chief executive.
"It prevents catastrophic loss and makes sure they know if something is wrong," Klein said. "If their ventilation system goes down or the power goes out, they know right away and then they are able to go correct the issue."
Smart Barn also tracks production around the clock and provides data that can be used to make farming more profitable and less wasteful, he said.
Since January, PrecisionLSF LLC has installed Smart Barn systems for 16 customers including poultry, hog, grain and soybean farmers in Ohio, as well as Nebraska and Illinois. The company is on track to at least double its client base by the end of the year.
Ohio's crop and animal production industry accounted for $3.94 billion in 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.
PrecisionLSF, an acronym for "Livestock Farming," is projecting revenue of about $100,000 this year, and targeting $1 million in 2015. "It has been very well received," Klein said.
The Smart Barn system is an example of the so-called "Internet of Things," an emerging technology that involves placing sensors into physical objects and connecting them to a network, allowing them to communicate and act in unison.
Technology research firm Gartner Inc. estimates there will be 26 billion connected devices in 2020.
The Internet of Things, which excludes PCs, tablets and smartphones, will generate incremental revenue exceeding $300 billion, mostly in services, in 2020. The services include hardware, embedded software, communications services and information services associated with the objects.
International Data Corporation forecasts the worldwide market for Internet of Things solutions will grow from $1.9 trillion in 2013 to $7.1 trillion in 2020.
"We see this as the future," said Johnny Carpenter, Verizon Wireless Machine-to-Machine Partnership development manager. In addition to using your smartphone or tablet to make calls, check email and surf the Internet, business customers will be able to pull up machine run-time data or a production report, he said.
Verizon Wireless provides the network connection that allows the Smart Barn sensors to communicate with the Gateway device, which receives and stores the data online for remote monitoring by system users.
Carpenter said a number of other Dayton-area companies are also developing machine-to-machine technology with Verizon Wireless, but he declined to name them, citing legal reasons.
Precision LSF uses wireless cellular technology because wiring telephone or Internet lines to remote barn locations can be difficult and expensive, Klein said.
Klein, who hold a bachelor's degree in chemistry from Cedarville University and a master's in materials engineering from the University of Dayton, was raised on his family's hog farm near New Paris.
Joe Althaus, the company's chief technology officer and electrical engineer, also has an agricultural background.
Klein and Althaus drew their inspiration from home security and automation systems, and started building their systems by hand in Klein's garage. The hardware is now assembled in larger quantities by InSource Technologies Inc. in Paulding, Ohio.
The Smart Barn system starts at $899, plus a monthly subscription fee for alerts, monitoring and support.
PrecisionLSF's first big installation was in January at a hog farm in Versailles. The company landed 10 more customers after introducing its product in February at the Ohio Pork Congress, an annual industry trade show in Columbus.
"They are definitely ready for the right technology to do this sort of thing in livestock farming," Klein said.
Smart Barn customer sensors generated about 300,000 data points in just three months. The company's long-term vision is to turn that sensor data into useful information that can improve farmers' yield and profits. Future research and development investment will focus on data analysis and management, Klein said.
"When you look at a PrecisionLSF and that solution that they're providing, the more and more data that they can retrieve is only going to enhance their offerings as they grow as a business. The Smart Barn of tomorrow might be something totally different because of the extraction of the data and the use cases that they are seeing," Carpenter said.
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