2 Aug 2019

Southland farmer develops water monitoring system

From Country Life, 9:36 pm on 2 August 2019
Ray McCrostie

Ray McCrostie Photo: RNZ/Cosmo Kentish-Barnes

Outspoken Southland farmer Ray McCrostie is on a quest to find out about the land under his gumboots.

He's developing a low cost, portable water-quality monitoring station for farmers, with Clint Rissman, a scientist who used to work for Environment Southland, and automation engineer Richard Dean.

The trio have identified a drain on Mr McCrostie's farm in the Waituna Catchment as the perfect spot to test the prototype system.

The project began after Ray discovered that – despite their differing backgrounds – he and Clint shared a lot of common ground when it came to soil management.

They decided to work together to create a tool for farmers to better understand the processes that are going on in the soil. The self-funded project began with research and has led to the development of a low-cost monitoring station.

This is where Richard comes in. He has proudly built the controller hub for the prototype station that has evolved into a transportable, free-standing package with solar panels.

Richard Dean and the controller hub he has built.

Richard Dean and the controller hub he has built. Photo: RNZ/Cosmo Kentish-Barnes

The computer technology needed is housed within the station.

"We'll know what the temperature of the water is, the PH, the turbidity, the dissolved oxygen, all those typical sort of things you'd measure for," he says.

Ray is excited by the project and what it will enable him to do.

"Using my cocky logic from 50 years on the farm I'll be able to fine-tune even more my fertiliser applications to make the soil more healthier"

The trio has identified a drain in a paddock on Ray's farm as the perfect spot to insert the first water testing probe that will deliver real-time water quality data directly to a laptop or smartphone via the controller hub.