Manure spreading goes high tech with IIoT



  • August 10, 2021
  • New
Manure spreading goes high tech with IIoT

Are you ready for the future of farming?

One of the main challenges of this century is to find solutions to ensure access to an adequate supply of healthy, diverse and safe foods for a growing world population, while limiting the impact on the environment and coping with to climate change. Advancing sustainability and efficiency with IIoT innovation in agriculture today is a central part of the solution.

McKee Ag Solutions has spent 50 years building one of the toughest and most durable manure, compost and fertilizer spreaders and serving the agriculture industry in Alberta, Canada. In 2020, co-owner Travis Jones decided it was time for digital transformation. “We wanted to provide our customers with a remote diagnostic web portal that they could log into and see various machine functions,” Jones said.

Overview of Manure Spreader Components and Control System Design for McKee Ag

McKee manure spreaders are equipped with a hydraulic tandem pump. A pump drives the beater system at the rear which spreads or applies the product to the field. A hydraulically driven tailgate, or tailgate, opens to allow product to exit through the rear, and the system also features a hydraulically driven variable speed floor.

An essential function of the control system is to monitor the torque load on the beater. Since the thresher requires the highest power load, it is crucial to use pressure control, essentially torque control, to keep the entire operation under the maximum load the driveline can handle.

Key functions developed by TRS Systems for McKee Ag include automatic end door control, automatic floor control, constant rate functions, as well as alarms and diagnostics.

CODESYS for fast hardware integration and seamless cloud connectivity

All functions of the McKee Ag control system have been programmed using the CODESYS development environment. One of the beauties of this programming software, having been designed according to the international industry standard IEC 61131-3, is “you can program in any language you feel comfortable with,” Steele said. “It’s so easy to use and quickly build your apps. Steele prefers structured text (ST) and CFC. “But even if you’re used to ladder logic and other languages, it’s so easy to use.” Building blocks and libraries built over the years can be reused across multiple applications and save a lot of time.
All telematics data flows from the gateway to the cloud. “And also, the gateway provides a GPS signal to the truck and the truck’s control system through the CAN bus,” Singh explained.

Using advanced user interface techniques has never been easier, using CODESYS launched in the cloud in less than four weeks

The remote monitoring dashboard on Immercloud displays information like number of devices, number of users, number of active sessions, etc., on the main login page. The main instrument panel allows for remote troubleshooting and displays information such as ground pressure, beater pressure, ground speed, oil temperature, ECU voltage and alarm information . GPS, latitude, longitude and speed data is sent to the dashboard.

This was the first step in cloud integration for McKee Ag, and it took TRS Systems less than four weeks.

Variable rate control: Mission accomplished!

Variable rate technology can reduce the amount of wasted product applied in the field. Using VRT, the goal is to detect information about the landscape and use it to make instant, real-time decisions about the application of the product.

For McKee Ag, variable rate control would help manure spreaders vary the application of the product depending on the topography of the field. So, for example, if there is a water point, the machine can control this spreading width and vary the rate variably accordingly.

The farmer, producer or equipment owner can enter drainage data into the cloud. And the cloud interprets how natural drainage works on the farm.

What made the whole project for McKee Ag transparent were the CODESYS IoT libraries. Singh said this is what allowed him to design a custom IoT integration for other customers as well.

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