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Microsoft TechSpark

Microsoft FarmBeats & AirBand

An aerial view of our hydroponics building.

Farming is often regarded as an old fashioned pursuit, but Riverview Gardens is at the forefront of technology in farming thanks to our “budding” partnership with Microsoft’s TechSpark program. Our farm is serving as one of the first in the nation to utilize and benefit from the FarmBeats initative and we couldn’t be more excited.

Microsoft’s FarmBeats program collects data from drones as well as ground-based sensors, tractors and cameras and transmits them to a central computer located on the farm using TV white spaces (a type of internet connectivity similar to Wi-Fi but with a range of a few miles). Using TV white spaces means not having to worry about unreliable or nonexistent Wi-Fi coverage in rural areas. The sensors monitor soil irrigation needs and helps determine the right time to apply fertilizer as well as how much to apply. In our hydroponics garden, the sensors are helping monitor and adjust water temperature, pH balance and nutrient levels, which can help us grow better lettuce in shorter amounts of time.

The program processes and analyzes the collected data using new machine learning algorithms. This is all run through the Azure Internet of Things (IoT) Edge, which delivers cloud intelligence locally, on the edge or a larger computing network.

Using Azure IoT Edge, “You don’t have to send all the data to the cloud; it sits on the farm, and is able to ingest a lot of the data, apply the intelligence on top of it to generate actionable insights for the farmer,” says Ranveer Chandra, the Microsoft principal researcher who leads the FarmBeats program.

CSA share basket.

Another aspect of this program is phasing out paper record-keeping in favor of electronic data files that will store information and help us further hone our efficiency in planting and production in the future, while allowing us to keep accurate and easily-accessible records.

The benefits don’t stop there- all of this data and analysis translates to our ability to streamline growing practices and increase production yields, which, in turn, increases our income from produce sales and allows us more time to focus on our clients and ServiceWorks participants.

We are so excited to get to know this new technology as we continue to integrate it into our farm’s infrastructure, day-to-day and year-to-year farming practices.

If you’re interested in checking our farm out, we offer monthly tours during the growing season, and our trails are always open to the public for walking and biking. If you’d like to help us grow and continue to serve the community, consider volunteering!