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The cost of theft to rural communities is growing – in the UK it stood at £40.5 million in 2021 (estimated by agricultural insurer NFU Mutual)[1], including ‘rustling’ (theft of livestock) and equipment or vehicle theft. The costs of farming equipment are also going up, with more farmers relying on technology to manage their farms and improve their yields. However, a farm is a difficult place to secure, often with vast areas of land to patrol. One way to tackle this is to use remote security solutions – and thermal imaging can play a crucial role in these, maximizing their coverage and efficiency.

Higher stakes in modern farming

Farmers are under pressure to improve yields and quality with a rising population to feed. This means they need to make the most of the land they farm. Technology can help them to do this – for example, many now use GPS technology to help them to map a farm and use its space wisely. 

However, with systems costing upwards of €20,000, the technology costs soon rise. GPS systems can be easy to steal, and represent a real threat to farmers due to disruption of operations.

Remote security for vast areas

There’s a massive challenge to traditional security methods in these scenarios. Farms range from smaller family holdings to massive super-producers. To give an idea, the average farm size in France in 2020 was 69 hectares. It’s not hard to imagine the challenge of setting up perimeter protection for that kind of area!

Another challenge for security systems is the fact that these rural areas have no access to power or networks. Few fields have such luxuries. So typically, farmers can only secure certain areas of a farm by modern methods. To monitor the livestock and crops – the money-making parts of the farm – a farmer has to ‘do the rounds’, which is an extremely time-consuming and exhausting prospect. 

To provide helpful and effective security, it’s clear they need a remote system. These need to be independent of both power and networks. They also need to be robust enough to survive inclement weather and smart enough to provide farmers with accurate alarm management, with the ability to check up on an area remotely too. 

Solar and Thermal technologies – a great combination

Enter solar powered, 4G cameras. Solar power is not new, and is already being used to provide power to all kinds of equipment that are nowhere near a traditional power supply. Applications ranging from securing remote pipelines to keeping an eye on festivals and other temporary outside events. However, like many remote technology applications, power management is key. If power drains too quickly, the benefits are limited, since the cameras would need to be maintained and charged regularly. 

Reduced power and bandwidth consumption

Oour developers have found a solution – the merging of thermal technology into the camera. Since a thermal channel uses a fraction of the power of an optical one, it lasts longer. This can extend the battery life for around a day, depending on what features are active on the camera. The 80w solar panels themselves can charge the camera in just six hours on a sunny day. Users have the option to schedule ‘sleep mode’ on the thermal or optical channels too, helping to prolong battery life. 

The cameras also tackle the other remote challenge – that of a network. This is required to alert the farmer of any alarms and enable a full remote monitoring solution. With no ‘connected’ network or wifi available, the cameras use 4G to do this. To maximize the available bandwidth, thermal technology plays an important part too. Since a thermal image needs a fraction of bandwidth to transmit, a typical application is to set up to monitor an area with the thermal sensor, only switching to the optical lens when an alert sounds. This means a farmer can check the alert with a more visual optical image, without the system streaming bandwidth-heavier optical images all the time.

Intelligent applications 

Embedded with Deep Learning algorithm, the cameras can classify humans and vehicles accurately, dramatically reducing false alarms caused by wildlife or falling leaves, for example. The cameras are also equipped with a strobe light and audio alarm, which is designed to deter intruders even before they enter. The combined technology in the Kit comes in handy in other ways too. For example, thermal technology has a variety of purposes, including fire prevention and animal health monitoring.

Weatherproof and environmentally friendly 

Protected to IP67 standard, the Thermal Solar Kit can be used outside, since they can withstand rain and dust. The Kit is easy, and so cost-effective, to install, with a junction box to keep the few cables needed safe from vandalism and a bracket for simple pole mounting. The Kit has sustainable properties too; its low power consumption means that it can save 104 kWh per year, which equates to 17kg of CO2.

Farmers are increasingly turning to expensive technology to improve farm management and yields. This has led to the need to another kind of innovation – one to help protect this equipment and keep the farm running at optimum levels. The combination of solar power with both optical and thermal camera technology provides a sustainable monitoring solution, even in the middle of a remote field. So, farmers can keep an eye on their livestock and crops without having to carry out long patrol journeys around their farm.

Find out more about our Solar-powered Thermal Camera Kit. 

[1] NFU Mutual Rural Crime Report 2021

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