Case in point: VMS to the rescue

On the Columbia River 16 miles from Boardman, Ore., vandals entered a high-value irrigation pump station in January 2008 to steal the copper pipes. The rising price of copper has made such incidents common, but there was much more at stake in this case than the value of the copper. It took a couple of months to get the pumps back up and running, and it could have been a lot worse. The station is part of a system used to pump 190,000 gallons of water a minute to irrigate the crops of one of the largest farm and dairy operations - representing approximately $45 million in business annually - in the United States.

It is a challenge for the RD Offutt Company, Fargo, N.D., owner of the farming business, to keep watch on its two irrigation pump stations in remote locations 150 miles east of Portland, Ore. To meet the challenge, the company chose the NetDVMS with Ocularis Client Lite v1.6 IP Video Management Platform from OnSSI. The system has worked out well, and almost immediately helped the company protect a remote irrigation pump station. "Within the first week of installing OnSSI's video surveillance solution, we caught someone inside the pump station buildings and made an arrest," says Mark Ashby, Supervisor of Technology and Automation of the RD Offutt Company. "When something happens at the pump stations, it could be disastrous to the farm."

The new system has also provided benefits beyond security, enabling the company to monitor its business operations, track jobs and to observe remotely if equipment is working properly, "We want to be able to see what happens when we turn a pump on," Ashby says. "We have cameras in our mechanic shop, and we're currently putting in cameras to watch baby cows in the hospital areas. We are now able to monitor the most important areas of our business, which has saved our company thousands of dollars and helps us keep our employees safe."

A Self-Sustaining Operation

RD Offutt Company operates one of the largest farm and dairy operations in the United States on 93,000 acres in the Columbia River basin in Oregon. Multiple agribusinesses also operate on the same real estate, all managed by RD Offutt. Three Mile Canyon Farms owns the land and equipment, while Castle Rock Farming operates the farm. The location is also home to a large dairy. Because the forward-looking operation uses green farming techniques, the various businesses are "self-sustaining" - they all support each other. For example, the dairies provide manure for the crops, and crops are used to feed the livestock. There are 352 full-time employees.

The information network provider for RD Offutt Company is Dry Canyon Communications, an end-to-end solution provider for networking, wireless communications and IT surveillance in industrial and agricultural applications. Taylor Long and Associates, an OnSSI manufacturer's representative, introduced Dry Canyon Communications to OnSSI's Ocularis Client Lite solution, and RD Offutt is the first OnSSI job they installed shortly after getting certified.

"The OnSSI video surveillance solution was very attractive to us because it is IP-based and our customer's cameras are in very remote areas," says Curt Barnett, Owner of Dry Canyon Communications. "It fits what they needed and has a lot of flexibility and the ability to upgrade."

The job involved installation of 30 new IP cameras and the addition of encoders to integrate nearly 20 existing analog cameras. The cameras are positioned to cover key locations such as pump stations, water on/off valves, business offices, fuel pumps and production warehouses. Each camera connects to one of 1,000 nodes on a wireless network that includes WiFi and other secure wireless transmission. Quality of Service on the network gives priority to video traffic over other data, thus ensuring quality streaming video with no performance issues.

RD Offutt uses NetDVMS on three Dell PowerEdge 2850 rack-mount network servers running on two separate wireless networks that are bridged via a Cisco routing solution. Each server has 4GB of RAM and 500GB of hard disk space, and they archive to an NAS (network-attached storage) with 5TB of storage capacity. The flexibility of the solution enabled RD Offutt to deploy DVR servers in areas that are heavily populated with surveillance cameras to help reduce the amount of streaming video traveling over wireless backbone links. The system also enables the farm to manage bandwidth by providing the ability to centrally manage the cameras, frame rates and quality of video from one central management portal.

Management Benefits

In addition to security, the system functions to oversee production through remote viewing of RD Offutt's operation. "It gives them extra eyes at the equipment sites, and they can know what to turn on or off based on what happens," Barnett says.

Uses beyond security include business management and job tracking, and managers have already seen improvements in efficiency, for example, in a shop where repairs and welding are done. The cameras also allow monitoring of remote diesel and gasoline pumps used to refuel the farm's equipment. There have been occasions when video captured images of people loitering at a fuel pump station, leading to arrests and possibly avoiding vandalism. Given that the site is roughly 30 miles square, some cameras are located as far away as 15 miles.