monitoring on my farm...

Discussion in 'Off Grid Living' started by Matthew Walker, May 20, 2014.

  1. Morning all.

    I'm here looking for ideas, suggestions, support.

    Already have a rather established off-grid farm in an ecovillage where power is produced via solar and hydro technologies. Life is great.

    This summer I've decided to build a monitoring system for all the various things that I've got on the land that I'm sure ya'll can relate to as well, i.e. water pumps, hydro station, perimeter fencing, charge controllers, as well as the gajillion little systems I have in the home, etc.

    Some of these systems are really close to my house and some are nearly a kilometer away. Travelling that far to check the LCD screen on my water pump to ensure everything is running smoothly is getting old.

    If this seems interesting to anyone here I'll be happy to check-in with you and update you on the progress of this thing (currently accumulating hardware needed for the project).

    Nice to meet you.

    chelloveck and Mike like this.
  2. kckndrgn

    kckndrgn Monkey+++ Moderator Emeritus Founding Member

    I would like to hear of your progress.

    What is your technical ability?
    Here's one hack using Arduino and GMRS radios
    Hello World: Long Range Wireless Sensor

    Here is a thread about info for sending an RF signal 1KM using an arduino
    Need a 1KM range RF module for arduino - Arduino Forum

    I'm sure there are other ways to do this as well. Not sure if a wired connection would be feasible over the 1km distance.

    Perhaps a low tech way would be a monitoring system where if a fault was detected it would sound an alarm that could be heard from your home?
    HK_User and Mike like this.
  3. Dunerunner

    Dunerunner Brewery Monkey Moderator

    Why not just have a red light come on; or probably easier, go off at the remote locations. Be sure it is one you can see line of sight from the house? Then, you can stand on the porch with a cup of coffee and a pair of binoculars and monitor your systems.
    Mike likes this.
  4. Yep, it would be hard to imagine a monitoring system employed without a few arduinos at least.

    For now, just building the network on my farm for doing the data collecting and then centralizing that data into one place (I'm thinking Beaglebone Black) so that I can build software for trending would be really cool.

    And yes, I completely agree with the alarm conditions. I'd want to receive notifications of some sort when there is a condition that is met on *any* of my various data points.

    Last year, we had 90 inches of rain by August here in the mountains. Unknown to me the float-switch circuit for my water tank was shorted out and my water pump was merrily working away although the 8000 gallon tank was totally full. *sigh*.. This sort of scenario occurs to me as an ideal thing to monitor and possibly alert me for.

    Oh, and freezers..

    To loose 200lbs of beef to a malfunctioning freezer is bad enough, but when it's 200lbs of beef from a cow that you delivered, milked, loved, took-care-of, fed and slaughtered yourself is a heartbreaking endeavor. Ensuring that my freezers are all 'doing their jobs' is another thing I'd like to monitor and receive notifications when things become 'suspicious'..
    Last edited by a moderator: May 20, 2014
    Georgia_Boy, Yard Dart and Mike like this.
  5. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart,Deadman Walking, Snow Monkey Moderator

    If it was "Me" and I had a small amount of power available at each Monitoring Site, I would just go ahead and install a WDS WiFi Access Point at each site, with a small Panel Antenna, directed back to the Cabin. Ranges can easily reach 2 miles, even thru Trees, it will work for shorter distances. This makes a clean Network, and Transport layer, and all you have to do is build the Onsite Monitor & Control Stuff. If you use a PreFabed Board for that you can setup the SAME Basic Hardware at each site, and then just program the Software to sense, and control the individual Site Operations. This also allows you to put Video Monitoring (WebCams) at each site, and bring it back on the same Transport Layer. With a IP connection to the Internet at the cabin, you can setup your router to make the whole Network available to you, anywhere in the world, thru a Encrypted VPN, from a Laptop or Tablet, back to the cabin. Really doesn't pay to redesign "the Wheel" in the Transport Layer, in my world..... ..... YMMV.... Oh yea... and Welcome to the Monkey Tree... Looking forward to seeing more of your system and place.....
    HK_User and kellory like this.
  6. Thanks BT.. that is basically what I'll be doing.

    keeping the hardware at each site simple and open

    (the open-ness is important to me since open hardware and software are the best way to ensure there are no 'backdoors' put there by our friends in DC)

    If I have to fret over the health of the systems that I've put inplace to monitor the systems I'd like to stop fretting about.. well.. that'a fail - so my plan is to build the solution at each site so simply that I literally plug it up and walk away.

    I'm a software developer so naturally I'm assuming my software will be doing all the heavy lifting..

    So glad ya'll have expressed some interest and I'll definitely be updating you with pictures on the project..

    Right now, I'm in a hardware learning and purchasing storm (arduino, freakduino, zigbee, raspberry pi, beagle bone black and something new every day).

    kellory likes this.
  7. cdnboy66

    cdnboy66 Monkey++

    have you considered the low tech solution of wireless video baby monitors??
    depends on range of course, but they might work for close to the house stuff.
    And freezers ( and other electronics) could have a small coloured LED light wired into the socket to indicate power supply is active, again, depends where they are, but would be visible froma short distance.
  8. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart,Deadman Walking, Snow Monkey Moderator

    For Freezers, and other operating Appliances, I like to use Current Transformers, on those AC Circuits, that then feed into a/d Inputs on the Monitoring Boards, that then send the Data to the local Server.... If the Server doesn't see an AC Current Used signal, every so often, it sets off and alarm condition, and you know to go check the Unit..... If you have a different Circuit, for each appliance, then this can ALL be monitored, at the Breaker Panel, with a single Monitor Board, watching ALL the appliance circuits. Current Transformers are very cheap, and if you get calibrated ones, you can also log the Current Used, for each appliance.... A very hand thing to know...... .....
  9. Greetings cdnboy66. Would you be willing to say more about your suggested 'low tech' solution?

    My thoughts on baby monitors is that
    a. they are devices that operate only in the analog world meaning I'd have to do considerable work rewiring their inputs. Moreover, PCBs that are made for production units are usually very 'thinned' down to serve only their intended purpose which means I may not have a way to connect a baby monitor to my water pump's MODBUS telemetry port. If I have to break out a soldering gun then I've just made the solution very difficult to replace when and if it fails in the field.
    b. they are not weatherized meaning that I will have to enclose them in some sort of weatherized enclosure

    You'd be surprised at how cheap a more 'ideal' solution is out there.. For $60-70 per site (and I may have dozens or hundreds of monitored points per site) I can deploy a micro-controller connected with connections to my devices with intergrated long range (900mhz or 2.4ghz) wireless communication - all enclosed in a weatherized box. I'm working on some tricks to tweak the power consumption down enough so that this weatherized box could run on a couple of AAs for about a year or two - which is an awesome battery backup solution for times that my solar is producing.
  10. Dunerunner

    Dunerunner Brewery Monkey Moderator

    For refrigeration, I would rather go with a thermal alarm point. Compressors will run and current flow will be indicated even with reduced or zero Freon to cool the box. Perhaps a thermal alarm in conjunction with the current sensors. There's a win!!

    But, why are your freezers and refrigerators so far away??
  11. [scratching chin]

    this may be just was I was looking for to register a simple active/not-active status of my electrified perimeter fence. Thanks for the tip.
  12. Oh, I must have misled you at some point.. Apologies for that.. My freezers are all next to my house.
  13. Dunerunner

    Dunerunner Brewery Monkey Moderator

    That is convenient, but lots of beef to eat if they go down.
  14. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart,Deadman Walking, Snow Monkey Moderator

    All of my (4) Freezers are in a different building from the cabin.... Hence the Remote Monitoring..... and I have Pan & Tilt WebCams installed, around the area, so that I can monitor the extended area from the cabin.... All of these are available thru the encrypted VPN, from the outside world.
    chelloveck and Dunerunner like this.
  15. Airtime

    Airtime Monkey+++

    I would very much appreciate hearing more details now that you have dangled the appetizer out there. What devices, where did you get them, how did you modify then ect. As an engineer (and not a software geek) I am a big proponent of R & D: ripoff and duplicate. Why reinvent the wheel? That is why I value this forum. I share my solution to a problem, others duplicate it, they share their solutions, I duplicate it, etc. Thank you much.

    chelloveck likes this.
  16. TXKajun

    TXKajun Monkey+++

    I'm in a real foul mood. Why not tripwires with flashbang grenades and flares? Let em run until they hit 440V fence at ankle level. F'em. Remember, good fences make good neighbors. HV electric fences make BBQ neighbors!

  17. Cruisin Sloth

    Cruisin Sloth Special & Slow

    Dang Tx-Kajun !! He's (Matt) talking about making sure his creations of mind are still functioning , Like I do. NOT folks playing with fire..
    Farmers are He-nocturnal !

    Last edited: May 21, 2014
    Yard Dart likes this.
  18. Feels great to connect with folks that share the need to geek out over off-grid systems.

    Kajun keep that crazy coming.. makes me feel at home.

    I'll post pictures soon.
  19. Dunerunner

    Dunerunner Brewery Monkey Moderator

    I'd like to see the general drawing of that system with a parts list. Talk about first class!!!
  20. TXKajun

    TXKajun Monkey+++

    :) OK, all better today. Matt, I'll share more crazy with you in the future. Prolly the immediate future too! LOL

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