At a multi-site chicken farm, a new approach was required when it came to monitoring sheds and ensuring bio-security conditions are met. Woodhouse Fields Farm worked with rural security specialist Agri-CCTV, and used an innovative Hikvision Wi-Fi surveillance solution to address the dispersed nature of the chicken-rearing facilities – and is trialling the use of thermal cameras as a security measure well-suited to rural applications.
Woodhouse Fields in Shrewsbury is a multi-level farming enterprise, which includes around 1500 acres of arable land and nine large poultry sheds for large-scale poultry farming. Corve Poultry Ltd. owner-operator Jonathan Benbow was looking for a means of monitoring his poultry sheds to ensure operational efficiency and bio-security adherence. He approached specialist agricultural security and surveillance installer Agri-CCTV Ltd to help develop a solution.
Agri-CCTV was founded in 2010 with the aim of developing security solutions for the unique issues faced by clients in rural communities. To date James Anstis-Smith and the team at Agri-CCTV have provided peace of mind to over 600 farms and commercial properties across the UK and France.
Anstis-Smith said in this case that Agri-CCTV was asked to provide a system that delivered video images from inside each poultry shed, to allow for the animals to be monitored remotely. The main challenge that had to be tackled was the distance between the farm’s two main sites, which are nearly one kilometre apart.
“As a result of this distance between the sites, we couldn’t use standard cabling,” Anstis-Smith said. “We had to approach the problem from a different perspective. So we worked with Hikvision to develop a Wi-Fi-based solution, which would link-up each shed across the whole site.”
There were additional advantages other than the provision of video images, though – the expansion of Wi-Fi across the site has also allowed Woodhouse Fields Farm to improve its on-site communications capabilities. Anstis-Smith explains:
“Along with the primary network, we also provided a second layer of networking, installing a Wi-Fi access point in every other shed. This serves an important function: allowing the user to have multiple access points across the site, and providing uninterrupted Wi-Fi calling and internet connectivity across the whole site as they work, without interruption to surveillance footage.
“Because the sheds are steel-clad, they don’t allow for mobile phone signal reception. With this Wi-Fi connectivity, they are able to make internet-based calls in a mobile-unfriendly environment. This has proven to be of immense benefit to the farm staff in helping with operational communications.”
The entire site installation was planned to allow for the addition of components or the upgrade of equipment without having an impact on the primary infrastructure; future-proofing which will mean that there is no interruption in the farm’s productivity if those changes need to be made.
Equipping the farm
Agri-CCTV installed Hikvision cameras in all nine of Woodhouse Field Farm’s poultry sheds, for the ongoing monitoring of poultry growing, feeding, welfare and to ensure that their strict bio-security standards are adhered to. The cameras selected for these internal monitoring roles were 4MP HD EXIR models.
Hikvision’s EXIR cameras have built-in LEDs housed in a separate window to the camera lens, and utilise Hikvision’s patented EXIR technology. EXIR allows for better infrared coverage than traditional IR arrays, and eliminates the issue of internal infrared reflection and image bleeding. This makes them ideal for 24-hour monitoring, which is crucial to a poultry farming operation. A further EXIR camera was installed in the Farm’s boiler room for the security and monitoring of the machinery and the safety of the room’s lone worker.
Four external cameras monitor the site; these are also EXIR models with powerful 80m infrared range, offering the ability to capture clear images with no additional external illumination required. Images from all of the cameras are recorded to a Hikvision 16-channel network video recorder, equipped with an 8TB hard drive.
“In order to connect the two sites, we used Deliberant point-to-point networking equipment, which allows for multi-site connectivity and for the extension of internet access across the property,” Anstis-Smith said. “Then for the access points, we used equipment from Ubiquiti Networks.”
In addition to the standard CCTV aspects of the system, Agri-CCTV and Woodhouse Fields Farm are trialling a new Hikvision thermal camera to determine if this relatively new surveillance technology is a good fit for rural and remote applications.
Anstis-Smith explains: “The CCTV industry is always evolving, and at Agri-CCTV we’re keen to increase our knowledge and adapt to new technology developments. One of these is certainly the emergence of the use of thermal imaging for a much wider scope of applications than its previous very high-end uses.
“We believe that in a comparatively short space of time thermal imaging will become a commonplace system to install, partly because of the wide spectrum of imaging it can cover in both day and night mode, and also because pioneers like Hikvision are introducing cost-effective models that are suitable for a range of uses.”
The advantage of thermal imaging for CCTV applications is that no lighting is required: the camera can pick up heat sources and associated movements at long distances, at night, and in all kinds of weather conditions. This makes it ideal for more remote security-sensitive locations.
“We’re looking at utilising thermal technology in the long range security of solar farms, as well as for farms where bio-security is key and at other food production sites,” Anstis-Smith says. “We anticipate that the use of thermal technology will increase in demand and potentially become a requirement for these kinds of sites as security for food producers grows ever more stringent.”
At Woodhouse Fields Farm, the trial will use a single camera to judge whether it has the potential to be used in place of a number conventional CCTV cameras.
“We shall be positioning the system high in a centralised position, allowing full 360 degree coverage of the farm and its surrounding access points,” Anstis-Smith says. “With the thermal detection range extending as far as one mile, we believe just this one individual camera, if used correctly, can take over the role which would normally require the deployment of several key cameras. This in turn will lower capital expenditure and operational expenditure costs.”
The thermal camera model being used in the trial is Hikvision’s DS-2TD4035D-25, which is a dual-function thermal and optical network speed dome. Agri-CCTV will measure the success of the thermal camera against a standard Pan-Tilt-Zoom (PTZ) IR-equipped night vision camera to gauge how much more effective Hikvision’s thermal technology may turn out to be.
“The equipment is utilised on a daily basis for the monitoring of chicken production and welfare,” Anstis-Smith says. “The system is particularly useful when it comes to the monitoring of feed deliveries on-site, ensuring that they are operating correctly, and according to the strictly maintained bio-security standards Woodhouse Fields Farm has in place.”
The Wi-Fi-based system installed by Agri-CCTV provides Jonathan Benbow and the Woodhouse Fields Farm staff with the ability to monitor their CCTV images from anywhere on-site – anywhere in the world with an internet connection, in fact – to ensure that the whole site and farming operation is safe, secure and functioning productively.
And they now have the added bonus of an internet access point in their top site office, where none previously existed, allowing for further connectivity and enhanced opportunities to keep tabs on day-to-day operations and welfare – a crucial aspect of the farm’s daily activities.
“I’m extremely happy with the images we get from the Hikvision cameras,” Benbow says. “They’re clear, effective – even though they are transmitted by WiFI – and also very useful for us. I wouldn’t be without the system now.”
The solution installed offers the capacity for the farm to grow its operations, and to extend its CCTV-based monitoring and analysis over the ensuing years. The ability to monitor ongoing activities will allow for operational improvements and efficiencies, which in turn will lead to more cost-effective products for customers. And a better functioning farm operation means better quality food products for the nation’s supermarkets.