We’re proud to announce a collaborative study between the newly minted Orbis Mesh Technologies Inc. (Orbis Mesh for short) and Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s­­ Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Department. We have engaged in a study designed to test the effects of Mesh Network technology on agricultural growth. This is part of our ongoing effort to use mesh networking for precision agriculture. 

KPU Campus in Richmond BC

The study, conducted with the help of Professor Michael Blomford, is the test of Orbis Mesh technology in the field. The desired outcome is to find how accurately mesh networking can measure and relay temperature, humidity and air pressure data in agricultural and farming applications. How does the technology work? You can find out here.

Phase one of the study is positioning Orbis Mesh sensors in the terrace garden positioned at the entrance way of the University. This terrace is used by the Agriculture department as a research field and produces a substantial yield of crops throughout the year.

Once we have completed this, the second stage moves the sensors from the front terrace to industrial KPU farms, heavily used for academic and industry research. This stage will simulate actual farming conditions and will test the possibilities of the technology for precision agriculture use.

Ruuvi sensors used with Orbis Mesh for KPU

The Ruuvi open source sensors used for measurement

What makes Orbis Mesh technology exciting for agricultural:

  • The Removal of all Wires

    This self-configuring and self-healing nature of the network will save substantial costs on equipment, repairs, and labour.

  • The Accurate Relay and Measurement of Real-Time Data

    Controlling factors such as soil temperature and moisture (which can vary wildly in the top 5 cm) are key to optimizing the yield of crops.

  • Eliminates Need for Cellular Connection

    One of the largest telecommunications companies in Canada recently announced an LTE-M network for IoT connection in rural areas. However, use of this network comes with airtime charges. Orbis Mesh networks rely on an unlicensed spectrum which incurs no usage fee.

  • Configure all Current Sensors

    Orbis Mesh is piloting this study with customized Ruuvi sensors (an open source product), but the Orbis PCB is able to be integrated in any current input, creating a mesh system solely with existing parts.

  • Automated Commands

    Measurement thresholds can activate command triggers. This can create commands such as a customized irrigation patterns, as opposed to the traditional timer based systems.

Orbis Mesh team setting up KPU install

The Orbis Mesh team installing the mesh network

The installation was a success, and completed at the end of November 2018.

There were some challenges in the installation process which we took away as lessons for future industry work as well as the Orbis Network. The University presented two non-replicable field problems. Because the sensors were installed on campus, the network gateway (used to connect the sensors) had to be installed in an adjacent building, as opposed to the field. This forced the RF signal to go through the concrete of the building and the metal screening of the windows. The second challenge was the campus wifi. The student login system would not configure with the linux system we use for our programs. We compensated for the concrete and metal by elevating one of the sensors and moving it closer to the gateway. Ethernet cables fixed the internet connection.

The sensors will operate in the terrace for the next few months gathering data and helping the faculty make informed decisions on when to start planting the terrace and the precise strategy to use.

The winter months in the Vancouver area are much milder than the rest of Canada, as the average winter temperature rests around 7-8 degrees Celsius (44-46 degrees Fahrenheit). This means we can hope to move forward with phase two of the study by the first quarter of 2019.