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Eyes are all around on this farm

Jeff Caldwell 04/02/2013 @ 11:03am Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

Alex Shaw's always been kind of a computer technology junkie. Now, what started out as a hobby -- and later a 4-H project -- has turned into a way for his Oneida, Illinois, farm family monitor and control just about everything that's happening on his family's farm around the clock.

"Originally, it started out for fun. I have a big interest in technology," says Shaw, who's also a student of Management Information Systems at Iowa State University. He started with a web camera on the family's grain dryer to make sure it's operating when it's supposed to be and it's taken off since then.

"The first two cameras were the dryer camera, and the pit camera. The dryer camera was there so we could check in the middle of the night to make sure are dryer was still running by the lights on the display. The pit camera allowed us to see how full our overhead is and also see semi-trucks loading or our tractors unloading into the pit," he says. "From there we added the cow camera to check on our cows to see if they have enough food and water."

But, these cameras are just the start. Since "wiring up" his family's farm, Shaw's now adding both webcams and wireless internet antennas to all tractors and combines. He's already added a bigger wifi antenna atop the farm's grain leg. The connection spans 2 miles, reaching all of the family's 1,000 acres.

"What's this all mean? We have wifi anywhere in the field," Shaw says. "And, you can see the tractors working in the field from my website."

Down the road, Shaw hopes to upgrade some of the cameras in the next year and hopefully expand upon the family's current capabilities with using mobile devices to both monitor and control cameras around his farm.

"We have also wired up the farm so that we can turn on all of our grain system from a mobile phone anywhere in the world," he says. "When my father is at work, he can turn on the leg and a bin and fill up the overhead for semi drivers, all from his phone."

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