Remotely controlling field operations
By Alexandre Alencar, Research & Development Director of Hexagon's Agriculture Division10 October 2019
Control is the watchword in the field in this digital age. While agricultural machines follow their daily routines of planting, harvesting, transporting and cultivating, far from there a team of operators remotely monitors all these activities so that everything goes according to plan. This centralised control is done through a software called HxGN AgrOn Control Room, which faithfully mirrors everything that goes on in real-time farming. The operators of this system are like the eyes and ears of the manager in the field, attentive to all the information that arrives at his workstation, and seeking to synchronise the movements and activities of all the machines there on the work fronts. Being warned about any sign of irregularity by means of alerts that flash on the screen, allowing the resolution of the problem with agility and without losing the rhythm of operations.
In Hexagon's portfolio, the AgrOn Control Room is powered by onboard controllers installed in agricultural machines operating in the field. These equipment, true intelligence centres, make a constant measurement and collection of all the data of these machines, recording second-by-second the information in their memory for the follow-up of the activities performed. Through the communication infrastructure available in the field, this information is sent in real-time to the central control. There, by combining the analysis of this data with the use of radio stations for direct connection to the field, the operator can more quickly either change the programming of activities, or coordinate the resolution of specific problems, such as the need for maintenance on a machine stopped due to a defect.
This product generates several reports containing operation times and breakdowns, as well as different key figures for productivity and throughput. Shows the start and end times of operations, with details of all data sensed in the machines, and all this monitoring is done based on georeferenced maps, and linked to configurable rules for notifications and alerts that must be generated for the operators. The software also allows the creation of decision trees, with a roadmap of standard procedures that must be followed in certain occurrences. This allows the AgrOn Control Room operator to actively support the company's managers in strategy changes and daily reallocation of resources by following the general framework of activities in the field. The ultimate goal is to maintain the synchronisation of activities and reduce as much as possible the downtime of machines in the field so that there are lower costs and greater profitability.
AgrOn Control Room has different modules to cover all processes in the field, with 4 specific control rooms dedicated to remote management of operations: Soil Preparation, Planting, Cultivation and Harvesting. All are based on a series of indicators and planning targets set by management, such as the total volume of raw material to be transported during the day, the expected average speed of operations, and the dosage of inputs to be applied in a given area. The AgrOn Control Room crosses the planning data with the data from the execution of tasks and alerts operators to correct the course of what is in disagreement, bringing back the operation within the expected working range.
That's the big differential of the Hexagon system. The AgrOn Control Room is not just a thermometer, where you just see what is happening in the field. It connects at the other end with embedded technology that simultaneously monitors and controls machines in the field. Thus, the solution operates in a cycle that integrates the four most important stages of agricultural activity: planning of processes, execution of operations, monitoring and control, and, finally, action to correct routes. The objective of this entire cycle is always to gain time so that this efficiency results in much more productivity, and thus ensure what every company seeks today: greater competitiveness and profitability in its market segment.