How IoT Analytics Saved Millions for Oyster Farmers

Background: The Business Problem faced by Tasmanian Oyster Farmers
Oyster farming is a meticulous task. It requires constant nurturing, grading and shifting of oysters in their beds. Otherwise it’s survival of the fittest and you end up with a few monster oysters that suck all the nutrients out of the seawater and lots of undernourished specimens which are not of much value. The traditional concern for farmers however has revolved around rainfall which brings the risk of runoff collecting contaminants that enter estuaries, making their oysters unsafe for human consumption. When heavy rain washes water from the land into the estuary, pollutant levels rise and oysters absorb contaminants making them dangerous if consumed. Government regulations prohibit harvesting of oysters until it’s judged that tides and river flow have washed away the contaminants and the oysters have cleaned themselves. Growers must then close the affected areas of their farms and cannot harvest their oysters for several weeks until the risk of contamination passes.Tasmanian farmers have lost an average AU$4.3 million annually over the last three years but research has revealed 30 percent of farm closures were unnecessary as there was no food safety risk.

The IoT Solution by The Yield
Earlier, farmers and regulators pulled data from sources of varying reliability as well as collected their own salinity measurements. Without better source of accurate data, closing a farm is always safer than risking public health, as well as avoiding the reputation damage and expense of a recall.
The Yield has partnered with local farmers, state governments, and vendors including Bosch, Microsoft, and Intel to minimize unnecessary closures. It has rolled out sensors in fourteen Tasmanian estuaries, covering 80 percent of the state's oyster farms.

There are four components to The Yield’s system:
  • Sensors: These are solar powered sensors, manufactured by Bosch and measure water depth, salinity, and temperature, as well as barometric pressure in the atmosphere. 
  • Platform: It’s using Microsoft’s Azure cloud services and the Azure IoT Suite to host its platform. Sensor data is uploaded every five minutes via Microsoft's Azure IoT Suite.  
  • User interface. The access to the data is available to farmers and food safety regulators via The Yield's own app.
  • Data Analytics: This is the heart of the solution. When they get a rain event in the catchment, they can predict the local salinity as rainfall flows through the catchment. The patent pending algorithms helps them do a pretty accurate prediction. The mathematical models are also rapidly scalable when they want to apply it to different bays.
The Business Benifit from The Yield's IOT Solution
The Yield’s technology is able to predict when closure is necessary much more accurately. According to The Yield, weather closures have cost the Tasmanian oyster industry an average of $4.3m a year for the past three years. On this basis, if its IoT technology delivers just a 30 percent reduction in closures it would return four times the investment.

Key Take-aways
The Yield’s story is true example of how the real value in IoT is not in networks of things feeding in data which would likely be rapidly commoditized. Its the ability to gather disparate sources of data, discovering relationships between them, providing new predictive insights from them.

Here is a video which can help you relate to the business problem and solution discussed here.