Groundwater pump monitoring with low-cost satellite connectivity saves energy and money

Groundwater pumps are an essential part of the California agriculture infrastructure. Across the state, 1 million pumps bring water from underground aquifers to the surface for agricultural water supply. Together, these pumps use over 7.7 terawatt hours of energy every year. That’s equivalent to 4% of California’s total annual electricity consumption. That much energy is expensive, and the farmers who install, own, and operate these pumps bear the rising cost of the systems. On average, electricity is a farmer’s third largest expense. California farmers spend a combined $1B a year on electricity for groundwater pumping.

To help reduce this expense and improve efficiency, two companies, SweetSense and Wexus, have teamed up to create an innovative remote sensing system that monitors pump usage to help farmers make informed decisions. They have partnered with Swarm to ensure that the critical data captured by these systems can be transmitted anywhere in the world, at all times, no matter where the sensors are deployed.

Pump retrofits save energy and money

SweetSense, the leading provider of low-cost remote water and energy monitoring solutions, is working with Wexus Technologies to utilize their cutting-edge IoT software platform that optimizes energy and water resources. Through a unique “Energy Savings as a Service” financing program from California’s investor-owned utilities, SweetSense and Wexus are helping agriculture companies upgrade their capital equipment and critical infrastructure, saving them both energy and money.

California farmers spend a combined $1B a year on electricity for groundwater pumping. SweetSense and Wexus’s innovative monitoring solution, enabled by Swarm’s low-cost satellite connectivity, saves farmers tens of thousands of dollars every month.

To qualify for this financing, Wexus uses AI to remotely access a customer’s energy billing data and identify savings opportunities and equipment upgrades. SweetSense then installs their sensors onto a customer’s pump to track energy and water usage and cross reference it with expected spikes in energy pricing. This allows farmers to turn off their pumps before surge pricing takes effect, saving them tens of thousands of dollars every month, while improving energy and water efficiency and avoiding catastrophic equipment failures.

Rural connectivity: from sensors to satellites

Equipping groundwater pumps with sensors is only effective if the devices are able to transmit data back to Wexus’s platform. Groundwater pumps are often located in remote areas outside of cellular range, leaving traditional, expensive satellite networks as the only solution. To solve this challenge, SweetSense turned to Swarm Technologies. With their network of the world’s smallest communication satellites, Swarm provides the lowest-cost commercially available satellite solution for IoT connectivity. With 100% global coverage and no dead zones, Swarm enables SweetSense’s devices to transmit data from every groundwater pump, no matter how remote their location.

With 100% global coverage and no dead zones, Swarm enables SweetSense’s devices to transmit data from every groundwater pump, no matter how remote their location, at an economical price point.

Swarm’s affordable pricing is also critical to SweetSense being able to connect groundwater pumps at scale. Swarm’s low-cost hardware and data network is six times less expensive than SweetSense’s previous satellite provider, making data transfer from numerous IoT sites no longer prohibitively expensive and the obvious solution to remote connectivity challenges.

Spending less for more data

With the accelerating pace of climate change and droughts, water pumping costs are continuing to rise, making SweetSense and Wexus’s work more critical than ever. Droughts mean farmers need to operate their pumps more frequently. At the same time, energy prices are increasing and reliability is compromised due to wildfires and power shutoffs. Farmers, food processors, cold storage facilities, and many other energy-consumers in the food supply chain can optimize their energy consumption and reduce electricity bills – up to 40% a year – using this innovative monitoring approach.

Farmers, food processors, cold storage facilities, and many other energy-consumers in the food supply chain can optimize their energy consumption and reduce electricity bills – up to 40% a year – using this innovative monitoring approach.

These systems also have the potential to play a critical role as California implements its Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). Many agricultural operators will be required to track, report, and curb water consumption, so the SweetSense-Wexus-Swarm solution offers a strong business case to begin monitoring and measuring water consumption, as well.

While projects like this require reliable global data connectivity, the food supply chain cannot afford to spend large sums of money on sensor connectivity through legacy providers. Swarm ensures that IoT sensors in rural or remote areas outside of cell coverage can reliably transmit data at an economical price point.

Providing energy usage insights to customers across the food supply chain will improve the health of agricultural operations in California and beyond. As water supplies dwindle and energy costs rise, partnerships like those between SweetSense, Wexus, and Swarm will continue to help farmers, food processors, and others in the food supply chain reduce the cost and improve the efficiency of doing business. From meeting sustainability goals to keeping food costs low, enabling customers to make data-informed decisions will be increasingly important in the years to come.

Check out the first post in our series with SweetSense: Building a satellite-enabled drought resilience network in the western US.


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