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Feilding software engineers help mastermind game-changing irrigation system

A team of Feilding-based software engineers has helped mastermind a game-changing irrigation prototype that diagnoses its own operating faults, can launch a drone to manage crops at leaf level, and can even tell a few dad jokes.

Lindsay, which produces the Zimmatic™ brand of pivot irrigators, has just introduced the concept of the world’s first ‘smart pivot’ to its markets around the globe. Now, they are inviting New Zealand farmers and irrigation industry colleagues to give feedback so the product can be tailored to their needs.

The smart pivot is a new category of mechanised irrigation that moves beyond traditional water application and management to a wide array of crop and machine health capabilities, while also delivering proven water and energy savings.

Lindsay’s New Zealand team, based in Feilding, developed the software for the innovation that will use machine learning and multiple sensors and cameras to provide farmers with real time information and crop management solutions.

The smart pivot comes to life through Lindsay’s FieldNET™ remote irrigation management and scheduling technology, and its Zimmatic™ irrigation systems. It is designed to support healthier crops and more sustainable farming practices, while reducing risk and operational downtime, significantly expanding the capability of the traditional pivot.

Several of the smart pivot features are the outcome of collaboration and joint development with strategic partners. Advanced agronomic capabilities have been developed in partnership with US-based aerial surveillance imagery specialists Taranis. And the next generation of irrigation system performance monitoring and machine diagnostics capabilities have been made possible thanks to a partnership with Microsoft.

But Lindsay’s New Zealand-based software development team has been key to its development.

Software Engineering Team Lead Mike Debney says the smart pivot will let you know if a tyre is going flat before it happens, or if a gearbox is showing signs of wear. You can also programme it to notify a dealer to send out a service technician - all while you drink your morning coffee.

It can also detect ponding, blocked sprinklers or sprinklers that are not working properly.

“The prototype system builds on our existing FieldNET™ platform, combining high resolution aerial and satellite imagery, along with on-pivot cameras and sensors, to detect crop growth stages, optimise irrigation and detect disease,” says Mike. “The system can also launch a drone to capture in detail any crop anomalies, using thermal imaging to detect the issue and offer a solution.

“It is a great project to be involved with because all the ideas we’ve dreamt up over the years working with New Zealand farmers are now actually being tested out.

“We’ve also built in voice-activation. Along with being able to tell your pivots to start up or ask how much water you’ve used over the last week, we thought it should be able to crack a few jokes too. But you’ll have to register for the demo to enjoy the humour!”

The project is a truly global team effort. While Lindsay’s Feilding team has been working on the software, their colleagues in the USA have been developing a hardware prototype.

“It was a chance for us to be creative, build on all the technology and information we already have available in our irrigation systems, and get more value out it for farmers, both in New Zealand and around the world,” says Mike.

He says today’s farmers are conscious of both their business and environmental efficiency, and recognise the two are innately intertwined.

“The smart pivot helps you see how individual management decisions made throughout the season have impacted the efficiency of your operation. It can also help you understand your input costs like water use and how that relates to yield profitability. It really is leading edge technology and our Kiwi team is proud to be playing a part in its development.”

Lindsay Zimmatic Smart Pivot Team