Farmers in Vermont have a new way of checking in on their crops that have gone into storage for winter sales without having to drive around and do it in person: their smartphones.
The University of Vermont Extension Service has developed a sensor system that farmers can install in their warehouses and store rooms to monitor temperature and humidity. Typically, small farms that couldn't afford refrigeration equipment would have to physically go to the store rooms and take measurements to make sure that temperature spikes or dips weren't ruining the produce before it got to market.
Now, with the remote monitoring in place at nine Vermont farms, farmers can check in on their smartphones and make adjustments if temperatures or humidity are above or below an appropriate level.
Phys.org reports, "Since last winter, the system reduced the rates of vegetables that needed to be thrown out or culled by 30 to 50 percent—adding an average of $10,000 in revenue to each farm."
The system is not only saving the farmers money, but fighting back against the large amount of food that is wasted in the U.S. before it evens gets to stores.
The system is only being tested in the Northeast right now, but could work in any region of the country. All farmers could benefit from round-the-clock monitoring.
"The fact that there's something in there all the time checking in on it, letting us know what's going on is extremely helpful," says Pete Johnson, owner of Pete's Greens, an organic vegetable and community-supported agriculture farm in northern Vermont.
Johnson lost 20 tons of potatoes, or $25,000 worth, a couple of years ago when the temperature in his warehouse dropped. Now, the system creates data points every five minutes and sends him alerts if temperatures or humidity levels change for the worse.
The only obstacle to this system being installed everywhere is that it requires an internet connection, which a lot of small rural farms don't have. Large corporate farms have technology like this installed, but it's very expensive. The University of Vermont system only costs a total of $1,000 for the equipment and installation.
Farmers say that they've been able to store more food and for longer and that the quality of their produce has improved now that it's easier to manage the climate conditions of their store rooms.