Levno Monitoring Systems

August 2017

A fuel monitor system is developed for use in the milking shed.

Levno make Bluetooth monitoring systems for milk, fuel and water – and convert data into information that allows farmers to farm smarter, run a more efficient operation, and improve productivity. 

Larry & Jane Ellison developed the initial concept of the Levno monitoring system. The rural entrepreneurs have a farming background, owning and operating farms and running a petrol station on SH1. While running the petrol station they set up ‘Rural Fuel’, a fuel distribution business. 

It was during this time Larry recognized a need to bring technology to farm fuel tanks. The original idea was to develop an automated tank lock to cut down ‘fuel shrinkage’ (theft) and provide visibility for farmers and suppliers around fuel stocks. At the time, when Rural Fuel had to drive up individual farm roads to discover fuel was not needed, was inefficient - to say the least. 

Once research began they recognized the need to move toward effective Bluetooth remote monitoring technology across cell networks – a technology that wasn’t reliant on wifi/internet access, which can be still somewhat unreliable in the “boonies”. 

Further, they needed to design an intrinsically safe system, as electronics near fuel are a potential ignition source. 

The patented technology is unique to the Southern Hemisphere. On the tank, a Bluetooth sensor monitors fuel movements in the tank. A transceiver (a transmitting and receiving device) communicates with the sensor while sitting away from the fuel tank and within it is a sim card that sends information to the Levno software architecture. Alerts can be configured for individual users.   For example, many farmers customize an alert to be sent when more that 5-10 litres is removed, as this is usually the maximum amount they’re using in on farm quads and similar vehicles. 

The system can also send alerts when it needs a refill, or in cases of potential theft, when fuel is removed after hours. 

The Levno team knew they had a core technology that was bigger than just fuel monitoring and moved quickly into water monitoring and then onto a milk system, after being approached by a dairy cooperative. All three systems can be combined together on a customized dashboard. 

The milk monitoring system uses the same transceiver concept but has an additional suite of around 5 sensors across various points in the dairy shed. These sensors can track milk temperature, vat volume, temperature of vat cleaning and whether the agitator is working in the vat. Further the sensors within the vat are using LIDAR radar technology, as opposed to laser sensors which would degrade the product, or other sensors that would require contact with the milk. LIDAR technology uses light waves and distance to accurately measure volumes. A magnometer is also installed to track the agitator action within the vat. 

Such is the ability of Levno to proactively respond to customers needs that a recent suggestion from a farmer, who was keen to measure his dairy performance against incoming MPI NZCP 1 guidelines for milk vats, instigated a network-wide update. 

Levno was able to provide an overlay within a week of the request so that farmers can now assess their farm performance within the new MPI regulations. And alerts are able to be customized. For example, a manager could get alerts to let them know that milking has commenced on time while a worker in the farmshed could get an alert to let them know if the milk cooler wasn’t on, or if their agitator had stopped working. 

Data is stored on the Levno server with a view to being used for compliance reporting and reducing reporting requirements within the dairy shed. 

The Levno systems are not sold but the technology is available on subscription. This enables Levno to make easy updates and it allows farmers to avoid high capital set up and infrastructure costs. Levno CEO, Ray Connor, says the yearly subscription would cost the same as getting a 3rd party out twice a year to certify your shed. 

The Levno team install the system – each installation calibrated to individual tanks and vats. A preliminary visit allows Levno to identify the needs of the indivdual user and to assess installation. At this preliminary stage and at installation, users are shown how to use the system and aided to customize their personal dashboard and how to operate the levels of information. The data can be formatted by the minute/hour or day. 

They also run a help line for trouble shooting and training. The aim in the near future it to get the help line operating outside of 9-5 business hours, as they recognize their users work beyond these norms. A user is also able to book an individual tutorial/help session with the call line. 

Levno CEO Ray Connor says they’re not aiming to be the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff but are focused on converting data into information that allows users to produce a top quality product or run a top quality operation. He also points out that while big data is becoming big business, it has yet to really penetrate the agricultural market in the same way it has other sectors. Levno is aiming to change that and with over 2,000 systems installed, they’re well on their way. 

Ray says, “the feedback from the farming community has been incredibly positive and it surprises me every day or every conversation I have with a farmer surprises me as to exactly what benefits farmers are getting from it. You know we went into it thinking we’d have a little bit of visibility around fuel in a tank initially. I had a conversation with a farmer last week, he said that what he was able to do remotely was to make sure that his contract milker was actually milking when he said he was and he was able to compare the guy’s timesheet against the system start time of milking and say “hang on boys I think we might have a bit of a problem here”, you know that was just one. 

Another guy, a couple of weeks ago actually, a farmer took a holiday in Fiji. From Fiji he was able to see whether or not his plate cooler was working just by plugging into his dashboard. We had, a couple of months ago, we thought it was a bit of a glitch in our software, but we we’re obviously monitoring all our alerts and we had fifteen power outages within close proximity to each other and we just thought it was, I mean fifteen - its never going to happen you know, there must be a glitch in what we’re doing. But the tech guys after hours supporting the product were able to jump on it pretty quickly. We got to the bottom of it and it was actually in the middle of a storm, a massive tree had dropped out a transformer, caused a power outage basically for all the people taken off grid. And we were able to pick up that fifteen farms had had a power outage, and so through that process we were actually able to fast track getting the power back on farm just by having a really simple alert function in our product saying that power is out, there’s a problem here. Multiply that by fifteen farms and before you know it, we’re adding value.”