VIDEO: Field access to wi-fi eases data collection

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — A small antenna mounted on top of a tractor, sprayer or combine can now give farmers wi-fi access in the field from their home router.

Ayrstone Productivity of Minnesota created the tractor-based wi-fi system to give farmers access to their farm equipments’ production data and use their laptop, smartphones and other equipment through the home wi-fi while in the field.

“This is driven by what we heard from our customers,” said company founder Bill Moffitt.

The in-cab hub is the latest addition to Ayrstone’s existing rural wi-fi system. It allows a home wi-fi to be used up to 11 kilometres away through a series of hubs.

Moffitt, a California software developer, and his partner, Robert Hill of Minnesota have created a tiny antenna that can be mounted on a tractor, sprayer or combine. The device is plugged into the vehicle’s cigarette lighter and will give access to the home wi-fi through the company’s existing wireless network system.

Moffitt said there seemed to be no easy way to collect and download all the information produced by modern farm equipment.

“Farmers were collecting a lot of data on flash cards and not doing anything with it. This fixes the data problem,” he said during an American Agricultural Editors’ Association conference.

Moffitt said it wasn’t easy to create a device to provide long-distance wi-fi for rural areas.

The tendency was to add more options to the wi-fi system, he added.

Moffitt wrote computer code specifically to allow wi-fi for the hubs and receivers for use in remote areas with few people.

“It’s designed for people who need good access across their farm.”

Moffitt said some of the company’s existing customers use the service for early morning Skype or Face time conference calls with their employees in different parts of the farm. They have also sold hubs and receivers for campgrounds or arenas with small numbers of internet users.

He said it’s fine for 100 devices to use the wi-fi system, but 1,000 is too many. Trees and two by fours reduce the distance and effectiveness of the wi-fi, he added.

The base, receiver and cab antenna cost about $500.