Organic Orchards Case Study
Organic Orchards and New Boundary Technologies Help Growers Reduce Crop Loss
RemoteAware™ IoT Application powers Organic Orchards’ Frost Fan Management Solution
Organic Orchards Case Study
Northwest-based Organic Orchards has been growing organic apples and pears for 25 years. The company also produces auto-start controllers for orchard and vineyard frost fans under the G2controlsNW brand.
G2controlsNW chose New Boundary Technologies RemoteAware™ IoT Application Service as its remote access solution. Together, the companies created a complete turnkey solution for farmers and service providers to remotely monitor and control each fan.
Frost can have a devastating effect on crops. Cold temperatures can damage the flowers and scar or kill the fruitlets during spring frost season. The critical temperature varies depending on the stage the produce’s bloom cycles, requiring adjustment of the fan start and stop temperatures throughout the season.
Frost fans have been a staple in many orchards to bring warmer inversion-layer air down to crop level. While frost fans have been around for years, legacy auto-start technology has been plagued by erratic starting and clutch engagement problems, requiring midnight service calls and avoidable crop damage. For farmers with geographically-dispersed orchards, frost fan management has become complicated and time consuming. During frost spells, farmers often spend the night driving from one orchard site to another to ensure their frost fans start and are working properly.
Chad Muenzer, a local service provider, contacted G2controlsNW to build a reliable auto-start controller to replace legacy auto-start systems and automate existing manually controlled fans. He also wanted an automatic clutch to park the blades when the fan was not running, disengage for start and then feather the clutch in once the engine and gearboxes were warmed up.
G2controlsNW needed a field-proven IoT solution to remotely monitor the frost fans and save customers time and labor checking on the fan status. They needed to get to market quickly without high software development costs.
New Boundary Technologies private-label branded RemoteAware for G2controlsNW. RemoteAware offered a configurable off-the-shelf IoT application that was implemented in one day to provide 24×7 monitoring and an alert system for the G2controlsNW auto-start controllers.
The G2controlsNW controllers connect to an IoT cellular gateway that sends real-time data to the RemoteAware application service. The farmer and service provider can see important data at FrostFanControl.com including air temperature, engine parameters, alarms and more from the New Boundary web interface on their phone, tablet or PC. Engine hours are monitored to schedule preventative maintenance. The application lets farmers enable and change the set point temperatures for turning the fan on and off remotely. For service providers, e-mail and text alerts allow dispatch to a fan immediately upon detection of an anomaly.
To make sure battery power was not an issue for its orchards, G2controlsNW uses solar power to keep the frost fan batteries charged for reliable cold weather starts. They haven’t had a fan battery run down in three years.
Since implementing the RemoteAware IoT Application Service in its auto-start controllers, Organic Orchards noticed a 15-20% savings in fuel costs. With smart auto-start features and remote monitoring capabilities, frost fans can be controlled remotely to start later and be turned off earlier than they could be manually. Fans can be programmed to shut down temporarily to save fuel if a warm breeze comes through. Considering frost fans burn an average of 15 or more gallons of propane an hour, the potential fuel savings is estimated to be $50 an hour per fan.
Additionally, G2controlsNW customers report a 40% savings on labor and routine starting failure costs.
“New Boundary Technologies has been responsive and extremely helpful in creating a custom IoT solution for our orchard’s and our Autostart customer needs. Their practices are small business friendly and they get the job done easily, efficiently and cost effectively,” said Gary Gottschalk, President of Organic Orchards. “Branding RemoteAware was incredibly easy and took less than 30 minutes of my time to complete.”