The most important part of your greenhouse operation is to keep the plants alive and healthy. This means that the greenhouse managers should always check the status of environmental conditions and equipment. As soon as you discover extreme fluctuations in the temperature, equipment failure, or rising humidity, you get to save more inventory. But this means you need to invest in a remote monitoring device?
Should You Buy a Remote Monitoring Device for Your Greenhouse?
While installing a remote monitoring device for your greenhouse sounds very easy, you need to carefully think if you need it. To help you, below are some questions you should ask yourself before buying one:
What are the requirements when using a remote monitoring device?
A lot of remote monitoring systems require WiFi or internet connection and access to an electrical outlet. The programming method is done through a website, so it’ll be fairly easy to use a computer for the initial setup. If you have no internet connection, then you need to choose a cellular system. You need to register the cellular monitoring device on a wireless network, like Sprint or Verizon, before you can send and receive messages. Also, make sure that there is enough signal strength and signal quality at your site before buying.
Does a remote monitoring system include sensors?
In most cases, you’ll need to buy sensors separately. When buying sensors, you need to consider how you want to monitor, and how many sensors your base unit can accommodate. And while the temperature is a critical factor, you’ll also need to check other factors like carbon dioxide, humidity, water PH, soil moisture, power and equipment failure, physical security, and ventilation.
For example, humidity can affect the photosynthesis and the transpiration of plants. High humidity can cause diseases and promote the growth of mildew, algae, and mold. If you have sensors, you’ll be able to know when there are changes in humidity levels.
What monitoring device do you need for your greenhouse?
If you don’t know which monitoring system and sensors to use for your greenhouse, you can ask the manufacturer to assess your needs. If you want the manufacturer to check your greenhouse operation, you can set up a video conference, so they don’t have to go to the site anymore.
Make sure to provide the following details:
- The floor space square footage and the height of your greenhouse
- The skeletal structure of the greenhouse and the covering material
- The number of greenhouse structures in your operation
- The space dedicated to specific plants and the microclimates each space needs
- The outdoor climate to determine if you need more heating or air conditioning; and the level of humidity control you need
- The level of technological automation versus manual operation
- The types of ventilation, lighting, and irrigation systems
The manufacturer will then determine which type of system is best for your operation, the number of units, and which types of sensors you’ll need.
Does the remote monitoring device only work with the manufacturer’s sensors?
You don’t have to choose a monitoring device that will only work with the manufacturer’s sensors. You can choose between the ones the manufacturer designed or universal components from third parties. If you chose the latter, make sure to check if you need to work with another vendor to buy the parts. Also, don’t forget to test the sensors, if necessary, before buying.
Is there a fee to access the functionalities of the remote monitoring device?
There are cloud-based systems that provide free functionality but have some limitations. You might need to pay for a premium subscription if you want to unlock features, such as phone call alerts, text messaging, and data logging access.
Is it easy to set up, or do you need to hire an electrician?
Most of the monitoring systems are easy to install, and users can set them up without the help of an outside expert. Look for one that only needs a few simple installation steps. Here’s an example:
- Mount the device to the wall.
- Plug it into an electrical outlet and an internet connection.
- Connect the sensors.
Usually, once you plug in the remote monitoring device and connect the sensors, you’ll need to create an account on the manufacturer’s website, and begin to use the device. There should be no fee when creating an account.
If the manufacturer doesn’t offer installation service, you can ask them if they can recommend an expert in your area to help you set up the system. Otherwise, make sure that the manufacturer provides free technical support via phone or e-mail, so you can ask them for help if you have questions on how to install the system.
Do you need a wired or wireless monitoring device? What else do you need?
A wireless device uses built-in radio transmitters so it can communicate with the base unit, while a hardwired device connects the sensors with to the base unit with wires. Some monitoring devices today use a combination of hardwired and wireless technologies.
Monitoring systems will require an internet or WiFi connection, but if you don’t have that, then you can use phone-based and cellular-based systems available.
Does a monitoring device have a back-up power system?
You might begin to wonder if a monitoring device has a battery so that it will still work in case the power goes out. Your safest choice is a cloud-based system that comes with a built-in battery backup that can last for hours in case there’s a power failure.
Cloud-based systems constantly communicate a signal to the cloud to validate its status. If the power outage interrupts the communication link, then the system will generate an alarm to indicate that there is no internet connection, or that there is a problem with the cellular communications. You may receive an SMS or an e-mail notification regarding this interruption.
If you choose a cloud-based system, make sure that the manufacturer’s team monitors the infrastructures used to create the cloud platform 24/7. You can also ask them if they have multiple backups, to ensure that the system is never down.
Buying a remote monitoring device for your greenhouse is optional. You can choose to not buy one at all. But if your goal is to keep the plants alive and healthy, then it’s not wrong to invest in a monitoring system to achieve your goal.