If one adult dairy cow can produce 12 gallons of waste a day, just imagine how much waste is produced by 3,200 cows. Plenty, and Heartland Farm Service in northern Indiana is using technology to harness that manure as fertilizer.
Heartland Farm Service currently services large dairy and hog farm operations in Indiana and Illinois within about a 75-mile radius of its home base. Mike and Keith Johnson, members of the family that owns Heartland, use their new machine-to-machine (M2M) solution via Digi International, Verizon Wireless’ data network, and an app on a tablet and smartphone to efficiently and economically spread manure across farm fields. Nearly 12,000 gallons of manure are applied to each acre through a pump-and-drag system hooking into an extensive underground series of pipes after it’s collected from holding lagoons.
The waste is applied by a GPS-driven tractor with a person inside the tractor cabin monitoring the delivery from a tablet, keeping track of everything from pump pressure to total gallons applied. As the waste is applied onto the field, the entire process is also monitored miles away on Mike’s smartphone.
The solution took nine months to develop with the help of Verizon Wireless data engineers and Digi software. It started as an idea from Keith, an engineer by trade who customized the solution to make it come to life.
The company’s former two-way digital radio system, which cost about $7,500, has been replaced by a tailored 4G LTE data solution that cost less than $2,500. As a result, Heartland has shaved hours of employee time off the day. The pump monitor no longer needs a person standing by to control the pump and tractor.
As for the next-generation solution, Heartland is already working on devising real-time reports. A reporting system would allow the farmers who hire them to also check in remotely and see how the application process is progressing during the day.
It’s just one more step that the Johnsons say will keep them ahead of the competition.