Stay safe on the farm

New tech makes protecting your farm easier than ever

Farmers no longer have any reason to leave themselves unprotected without at least a rudimentary security system on their farm.


A quick search on Amazon.ca provides hundreds of camera options, video recorders, wi-fi boosters and alerts that producers can set up and monitor from a station inside the home or on a smartphone when they are out of the yard. 


It is impossible to completely stop determined thieves, but for the price of one lost slip tank of fuel or a couple of batteries, a security system can be installed that will help deter and identify thieves. 


RCMP Corporal Mel Zurevinski said footage from home security cameras has been used many times in Saskatchewan to help prosecute thieves. 


“There is a group coming out of Saskatoon doing break and enters in rural areas and there were convictions through sightings, through camera footage, and documentation of where they were sighted,” Zurevinski said.


When asked if farmers should invest in a security system, he said it’s a no-brainer. 


“Farming is big business and just like businesses do in Saskatoon or Regina, they should have security systems,” he said.


Many farmers will have no problem setting up their own robust security systems with components sourced online. 


It can be as simple as mounting a $200 game camera in a good location to be able to identify someone walking off with your gear. 


There are also motion-activated spy cameras disguised as objects, such as USB chargers or smoke detectors that can be operated without connecting to a network, but will keep track of activity in your shop or home when you’re away.


Some of these cameras can be accessed through wi-fi to view the recordings. Even if the wi-fi network is down, they will keep recording. 


If someone wants to put together their own networked security system, they need to learn how to manage wi-fi routers.


It is important for all routers to be secured with a unique password to prevent hackers from compromising your security system and monitoring you through your own security cameras.


Once a router is installed, security components with good online user reviews can be sourced to match the job you need.


For a camera for the front door, the wi-fi router installed in most homes will likely be sufficient. If its signal isn’t strong enough, affordable consumer wi-fi boosters can be installed or a cable can be run from the camera directly to the router. 


There are also available foyer lights for a house or shop that come with hidden cameras, so prowlers will not know they are being filmed. 


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When installing your security cameras, make sure they are doing the job you need, said Chris Sobchuk, a division manager for Allen Leigh Security and Communications out of Brandon.


“It all depends on where the camera is pointing, what lenses you have on, what the megapixels are. Will the infrared reach that far? So you have to do some investigation on it, making sure the motion sensor is going to trip off because if they don’t trip off, it’s not going to help you out any,” Sobchuk said. 


There are plenty of options for monitoring and recording video feeds. Farmers can purchase a digital video recorder set to constantly record the video camera feeds or record only when there is motion.


A do-it-yourselfer may use an old computer to record video instead of buying new.


Security companies also offer network digital video recorders where providers store the data on their servers off-site. 


In addition, cloud-based storage is available, but storing video from multiple cameras requires significant storage space, which can be costly.


When information is stored off-farm, a robust broadband internet connection is required, which is not feasible for some farms. 


Systems that record off-site require the internet operational to store the video feeds, and that can be a vulnerability. 


“If the guy (thief) is smart, they would just defeat the power to your yard and take out the internet,” Sobchuk said.


Back-up UPS battery supply can be installed to keep surveillance equipment recording for a short time if power is lost. 


There is also the possibility that thieves could take your local DVR recording device if you are away, which is why users get creative on where they install them. 


“We also have customers that will put sirens on their systems. So when they are home or away they can flick a switch when someone comes onto their property, or if they set off one of the sensors it will blow a siren,” Sobchuk said.


Once thieves know they are detected, they will usually leave quickly.


When people want to extend their security system beyond their house to their yard, consumer wi-fi boosters may be adequate.


But once distances increase to cover a large yard or sites kilometres away from the farm, industrial-level wi-fi bridges and boosters are required. 


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Sensors that detect material being moved out of liquid storage tanks or grain bins can be connected to the security system, even if they are many kilometres from the farm with the use of such wi-fi boosters.


When vehicles are left out in the field, a simple GPS tracker can be installed under its dashboard, which will lead you to your vehicle if it disappears. 


Drive-by alerts can be bought that are connected via wi-fi, or non-networked products are available that chime when someone drives down your lane. They are activated by motion, metal detectors or infrared sensors. 


The benefits for security devices that connect through wi-fi is that some can be configured to send notifications to your phone when you’re away from the yard. 


For instance, you can get a text when motion is detected on your yard or in your buildings or if a door is opened that is equipped with a sensor. 


Security systems can be as simple or as complicated as you want. For those who want an integrated system that provides real time notifications to a smartphone from all of the components in the system, there is a steep learning curve to get the system up and running. 


Some farmers will come to the conclusion investing a few thousand dollars in a security system installed and maintained by professionals is small potatoes when it comes to protecting their farm assets. Many security companies offer this service. 


Sobchuk compiles and pre-configures security components and then has farmers install their own systems. 


“It’s really a plug and play system where guys mount the camera, mount the wi-fi bridges and power everything up. Once everything is up and running, if we need to do any remote access, we can actually log into the computer and make any sort of changes to the routers or to the NVR to get everything up and running,” Sobchuk said.


He said the most common system he sells to farmers includes cameras protecting the entrance way of commonly hit areas like the shop and fuel tanks, perimeter protection with driveway probes, metal detectors or motion sensors, and sensors for shops, fuel tanks and bins. 


“We also have a shop door sensor, so if someone opens up the shop door it will basically send a message back to the house and play over a receiver, you know a ding dong or an announcement of some sort,” Sobchuk said. 


Most of the security systems he designs are for people who are home but are still getting hit by thieves, and who also want to monitor the system when they are away. 


“If they have a pan tilt zoom camera, they can go ahead and control that camera (with their phone) when they are away and take a closer look at what’s happening within their farm yard,” Sobchuk said. 


New infrared light cameras make visible objects and people that are 300 to 500 feet away in total darkness, he said.


New for the 2018 season, Sobchuk said they are hoping to have an in-cab recording system that takes a video if someone rifles through your truck, tractor or combine cab, LED farmyard lights with a camera built in, and driveway alerting system that will text the homeowner when someone drives into the yard.


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