Tag Archives: AgriTech

Building a Controlled Environment Agriculture Platform

Post Syndicated from Ashu Joshi original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/architecture/building-a-controlled-environment-agriculture-platform/

This post was co-written by Michael Wirig, Software Engineering Manager at Grōv Technologies.

A substantial percentage of the world’s habitable land is used for livestock farming for dairy and meat production. The dairy industry has leveraged technology to gain insights that have led to drastic improvements and are continuing to accelerate. A gallon of milk in 2017 involved 30% less water, 21% less land, a 19% smaller carbon footprint, and 20% less manure than it did in 2007 (US Dairy, 2019). By focusing on smarter water usage and sustainable land usage, livestock farming can grow to provide sustainable and nutrient-dense food for consumers and livestock alike.

Grōv Technologies (Grōv) has pioneered the Olympus Tower Farm, a fully automated Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) system. Unique amongst vertical farming startups, Grōv is growing cattle feed to improve that sustainable use of land for livestock farming while increasing the economic margins for dairy and beef producers.

The challenges of CEA

The set of growing conditions for a CEA is called a “recipe,” which is a combination of ingredients like temperature, humidity, light, carbon dioxide levels, and water. The optimal recipe is dynamic and is sensitive to its ingredients. Crops must be monitored in near-real time, and CEAs should be able to self-correct in order to maintain the recipe. To build a system with these capabilities requires answers to the following questions:

  • What parameters are needed to measure for indoor cattle feed production?
  • What sensors enable the accuracy and price trade-offs at scale?
  • Where do you place the sensors to ensure a consistent crop?
  • How do you correlate the data from sensors to the nutrient value?

To progress from a passively monitored system to a self-correcting, autonomous one, the CEA platform also needs to address:

  • How to maintain optimum crop conditions
  • How the system can learn and adapt to new seed varieties
  • How to communicate key business drivers such as yield and dry matter percentage

Grōv partnered with AWS Professional Services (AWS ProServe) to build a digital CEA platform addressing the challenges posed above.

Olympus Tower - Grov Technologies

Tower automation and edge platform

The Olympus Tower is instrumented for measuring recipe ingredients by combining the mechanical, electrical, and domain expertise of the Grōv team with the IoT edge and sensor expertise of the AWS ProServe team. The teams identified a primary set of features such as height, weight, and evenness of the growth to be measured at multiple stages within the Tower. Sensors were also added to measure secondary features such as water level, water pH, temperature, humidity, and carbon dioxide.

The teams designed and developed a purpose-built modular and industrial sensor station. Each sensor station has sensors for direct measurement of the features identified. The sensor stations are extended to support indirect measurement of features using a combination of Computer Vision and Machine Learning (CV/ML).

The trays with the growing cattle feed circulate through the Olympus Tower. A growth cycle starts on a tray with seeding, circulates through the tower over the cycle, and returns to the starting position to be harvested. The sensor station at the seeding location on the Olympus Tower tags each new growth cycle in a tray with a unique “Grow ID.” As trays pass by, each sensor station in the Tower collects the feature data. The firmware, jointly developed for the sensor station, uses AWS IoT SDK to stream the sensor data along with the Grow ID and metadata that’s specific to the sensor station. This information is sent every five minutes to an on-site edge gateway powered by AWS IoT Greengrass. Dedicated AWS Lambda functions manage the lifecycle of the Grow IDs and the sensor data processing on the edge.

The Grōv team developed AWS Greengrass Lambda functions running at the edge to ingest critical metrics from the operation automation software running the Olympus Towers. This information provides the ability to not just monitor the operational efficiency, but to provide the hooks to control the feedback loop.

The two sources of data were augmented with site-level data by installing sensor stations at the building level or site level to capture environmental data such as weather and energy consumption of the Towers.

All three sources of data are streamed to AWS IoT Greengrass and are processed by AWS Lambda functions. The edge software also fuses the data and correlates all categories of data together. This enables two major actions for the Grōv team – operational capability in real-time at the edge and enhanced data streamed into the cloud.

Grov Technologies - Architecture

Cloud pipeline/platform: analytics and visualization

As the data is streamed to AWS IoT Core via AWS IoT Greengrass. AWS IoT rules are used to route ingested data to store in Amazon Simple Sotrage Service (Amazon S3) and Amazon DynamoDB. The data pipeline also includes Amazon Kinesis Data Streams for batching and additional processing on the incoming data.

A ReactJS-based dashboard application is powered using Amazon API Gateway and AWS Lambda functions to report relevant metrics such as daily yield and machine uptime.

A data pipeline is deployed to analyze data using Amazon QuickSight. AWS Glue is used to create a dataset from the data stored in Amazon S3. Amazon Athena is used to query the dataset to make it available to Amazon QuickSight. This provides the extended Grōv tech team of research scientists the ability to perform a series of what-if analyses on the data coming in from the Tower Systems beyond what is available in the react-based dashboard.

Data pipeline - Grov Technologies

Completing the data-driven loop

Now that the data has been collected from all sources and stored it in a data lake architecture, the Grōv CEA platform established a strong foundation for harnessing the insights and delivering the customer outcomes using machine learning.

The integrated and fused data from the edge (sourced from the Olympus Tower instrumentation, Olympus automation software data, and site-level data) is co-related to the lab analysis performed by Grōv Research Center (GRC). Harvest samples are routinely collected and sent to the lab, which performs wet chemistry and microbiological analysis. Trays sent as samples to the lab are associated with the results of the analysis with the sensor data by corresponding Grow IDs. This serves as a mechanism for labeling and correlating the recipe data with the parameters used by dairy and beef producers – dry matter percentage, micro and macronutrients, and the presence of myco-toxins.

Grōv has chosen Amazon SageMaker to build a machine learning pipeline on its comprehensive data set, which will enable fine tuning the growing protocols in near real-time. Historical data collection unlocks machine learning use cases for future detection of anomalous sensors readings and sensor health monitoring, as well.

Because the solution is flexible, the Grōv team plans to integrate data from animal studies on their health and feed efficiency into the CEA platform. Machine learning on the data from animal studies will enhance the tuning of recipe ingredients that impact the animals’ health. This will give the farmer an unprecedented view of the impact of feed nutrition on the end product and consumer.

Conclusion

Grōv Technologies and AWS ProServe have built a strong foundation for an extensible and scalable architecture for a CEA platform that will nourish animals for better health and yield, produce healthier foods and to enable continued research into dairy production, rumination and animal health to empower sustainable farming practices.

The Satellite Ear Tag that is Changing Cattle Management

Post Syndicated from Karen Hildebrand original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/architecture/the-satellite-ear-tag-that-is-changing-cattle-management/

Most cattle are not raised in cities—they live on cattle stations, large open plains, and tracts of land largely unpopulated by humans. It’s hard to keep connected with the herd. Cattle don’t often carry their own mobile phones, and they don’t pay a mobile phone bill. Naturally, the areas in which cattle live, often do not have cellular connectivity or reception. But they now have one way to stay connected: a world-first satellite ear tag.

Ceres Tag co-founders Melita Smith and David Smith recognized the problem given their own farming background. David explained that they needed to know simple things to begin with, such as:

  • Where are they?
  • How many are out there?
  • What are they doing?
  • What condition are they in?
  • Are they OK?

Later, the questions advanced to:

  • Which are the higher performing animals that I want to keep?
  • Where do I start when rounding them up?
  • As assets, can I get better financing and insurance if I can prove their location, existence, and condition?

To answer these questions, Ceres Tag first had to solve the biggest challenge, and it was not to get cattle to carry their mobile phones and pay mobile phone bills to generate the revenue needed to get greater coverage. David and Melita knew they needed help developing a new method of tracking, but in a way that aligned with current livestock practices. Their idea of a satellite connected ear tag came to life through close partnership and collaboration with CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency. They brought expertise to the problem, and rallied together teams of experts across public and private partnerships, never accepting “that’s not been done before” as a reason to curtail their innovation.

 

Figure 1: How Ceres Tag works in practice

Thinking Big: Ceres Tag Protocol

Melita and David constructed their idea and brought the physical hardware to reality. This meant finding strategic partners to build hardware, connectivity partners that provided global coverage at a cost that was tenable to cattle operators, integrations with existing herd management platforms and a global infrastructure backbone that allowed their solution to scale. They showed resilience, tenacity and persistence that are often traits attributed to startup founders and lifelong agricultural advocates. Explaining the purpose of the product often requires some unique approaches to defining the value proposition while fundamentally breaking down existing ways of thinking about things. As David explained, “We have an internal saying, ‘As per Ceres Tag protocol …..’ to help people to see the problem through a new lens.” This persistence led to the creation of an easy to use ear tagging applicator and a two-prong smart ear tag. The ear tag connects via satellite for data transmission, providing connectivity to more than 120 countries in the world and 80% of the earth’s surface.

The Ceres Tag applicator, smart tag, and global satellite connectivity

Figure 2: The Ceres Tag applicator, smart tag, and global satellite connectivity

Unlocking the blocker: data-driven insights

With the hardware and connectivity challenges solved, Ceres Tag turned to how the data driven insights would be delivered. The company needed to select a technology partner that understood their global customer base, and what it means to deliver a low latency solution for web, mobile and API-driven solutions. David, once again knew the power in leveraging the team around him to find the best solution. The evaluation of cloud providers was led by Lewis Frost, COO, and Heidi Perrett, Data Platform Manager. Ceres Tag ultimately chose to partner with AWS and use the AWS Cloud as the backbone for the Ceres Tag Management System.

Ceres Tag conceptual diagram

Figure 3: Ceres Tag conceptual diagram

The Ceres Tag Management System houses the data and metadata about each tag, enabling the traceability of that tag throughout each animal’s life cycle. This includes verification as to whom should have access to their health records and history. Based on the nature of the data being stored and transmitted, security of the application is critical. As a startup, it was important for Ceres Tag to keep costs low, but to also to be able to scale based on growth and usage as it expands globally.

Ceres Tag is able to quickly respond to customers regardless of geography, routing traffic to the appropriate end point. They accomplish this by leveraging Amazon CloudFront as the Content Delivery Network (CDN) for traffic distribution of front-end requests and Amazon Route 53 for DNS routing. A multi-Availability Zone deployment and AWS Application Load Balancer distribute incoming traffic across multiple targets, increasing the availability of your application.

Ceres Tag is using AWS Fargate to provide a serverless compute environment that matches the pay-as-you-go usage-based model. AWS also provides many advanced security features and architecture guidance that has helped to implement and evaluate best practice security posture across all of the environments. Authentication is handled by Amazon Cognito, which allows Ceres Tag to scale easily by supporting millions of users. It leverages easy-to-use features like sign-in with social identity providers, such as Facebook, Google, and Amazon, and enterprise identity providers via SAML 2.0.

The data captured from the ear tag on the cattle is will be ingested via AWS PrivateLink. By providing a private endpoint to access your services, AWS PrivateLink ensures your traffic is not exposed to the public internet. It also makes it easy to connect services across different accounts and VPCs to significantly simplify your network architecture. In leveraging a satellite connectivity provider running on AWS, Ceres Tag will benefit from the AWS Ground Station infrastructure leveraged by the provider in addition to the streaming IoT database.

 

AWS Architecture Monthly Magazine: Agriculture

Post Syndicated from Annik Stahl original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/architecture/aws-architecture-monthly-magazine-agriculture/

Architecture Monthly Magazine cover - AgricultureIn this month’s issue of AWS Architecture Monthly, Worldwide Tech Lead for Agriculture, Karen Hildebrand (who’s also a fourth generation farmer) refers to agriculture as “the connective tissue our world needs to survive.” As our expert for August’s Agriculture issue, she also talks about what role cloud will play in future development efforts in this industry and why developing personal connections with our AWS agriculture customers is one of the most important aspects of our jobs.

You’ll also buzz through the world of high tech beehives, milk the information about data analytics-savvy cows, and see what the reference architecture of a Smart Farm looks like.

In August’s issue Agriculture issue

  • Ask an Expert: Karen Hildebrand, AWS WW Agriculture Tech Leader
  • Customer Success Story: Tine & Crayon: Revolutionizing the Norwegian Dairy Industry Using Machine Learning on AWS
  • Blog Post: Beewise Combines IoT and AI to Offer an Automated Beehive
  • Reference Architecture:Smart Farm: Enabling Sensor, Computer Vision, and Edge Inference in Agriculture
  • Customer Success Story: Farmobile: Empowering the Agriculture Industry Through Data
  • Blog Post: The Cow Collar Wearable: How Halter benefits from FreeRTOS
  • Related Videos: DuPont, mPrest & Netafirm, and Veolia

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