“Smart Barn” technology brings precision to animal agriculture

For years, grain farmers have been able to use precision technology to get the most out of their crops, their fields and their equipment. Ohioans Andrew Klein and Joe Althaus are looking to bring that type of technology to livestock farmers as well with their recently-formed company, PrecisionLSF, and the “Smart Barn” wireless network in Dayton.

“I’ve always been kind of a computer geek, tinkering around with projects and programming,” Klein said. “Two years ago Joe and I were talking about new sensors that had just been created and how they could monitor just about everything in your house and that really caught our attention.”

Not much more came from that conversation until Klein’s dad, who has a hog farm in New Paris, brought up how his phone line technology was difficult to program and only monitored if his power was out. Those concerns brought the topic of sensors up again.

“That’s how it all started for us,” Klein said. “We mixed my dad’s ideas for what he was looking for in a monitoring system with our ideas from a technical standpoint and after over a year of working on this project, the Smart Barn was born.”

IMG_5822The goal for Klein and Althaus was to assist livestock farmers in measuring and monitoring what is happening in the barn more carefully, so they developed the remote sensing and monitoring system. They were able to use Klein’s dad’s farm to get the ball rolling and to test their ideas in a “real world” situation.  Soon after that they got connected with Wuebker Farms in Versailles — their first paying customer.

“We met Jeff and Alan Wuebker at their farm and starting scouting a plan of what they wanted to monitor and where sensors needed to be positioned,” Klein said. “It was quite a challenge because of the operation’s size and scope. We weren’t even sure it was going to work with the necessary logistics of a wireless network.”

After some trial and error, the Smart Barn software is working beyond Klein’s expectations and he appreciated being able to stretch his company’s limits so early on to see just what their concept could handle. The Wuebker’s, whose Versailles operation consists of 1,800 sows and 100 dairy steers, are pleased with the technology so far as well.

“This new system gives me so many more possibilities,” said Jeffphoto Wuebker. “I can now monitor more than just temperature and electricity. We can now keep track of those aspects as well as augers, doors, humidity and ammonia. The options are limitless.

“I do like technology and I use it everywhere because I think it brings value and it saves me time. This system is not hard to set up and, if you know how to run any type of smart phone application or a computer, anyone would do just fine with this system.”

With all of the hardware and software that is needed for such a project, farmers may wonder if they can even begin to think about adopting this technology as they look at their bottom line. Surprisingly, this innovation is very manageable from a cost standpoint, no matter what size an operation.

“Our system is monitoring about 17 different things around the farm and, all told, our investment will be about $2,800 and $40 per month for monitoring,” Wuebker said. “Compared to our limited hard-wired system that we were using, that is a fraction of the cost and we are getting so much more.”

Wuebker points out that these wireless systems could come in quite handy for any size and type of farm.

“If you’re a show pig person and you are producing pigs that are worth $200 to $300, I’m sure you’d have certain things that you’d like to monitor 24/7,” Wuebker said. “I would even recommend this to a grain IMG_5815farmer because they can utilize vibration sensors to let them know if their transfer augers are turning on or not.”

Security and piece of mind is also part of the package as doors to any barn, shop or house on the premises can be monitored as well.

To find out more about Smart Barn technology, visit Smart-Barn.net.

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  1. Thanks OCJ and Jeff Wuebker for the recommendation! We hope to see everyone at Pork Congress next week!

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