A free new app launched by an Ontario start-up aims to simplify barn equipment maintenance. And it’s a precursor to an innovative monitoring system to track and manage on-farm energy use that Rakr is launching in 2021, called NeatMeter.
Why it matters: Cost control is essential to farm profitability. Energy is a significant expenditure for farms across many different commodities, and equipment repairs and associated down time can be both costly and time-consuming.
Rakr co-founders Mohamad Yaghi and Rutwij Devashrayee met in graduate school. Their shared passions for agriculture – Yaghi comes from an agricultural background in Lebanon – and technology brought them into business together in 2017. First up was market research: surveying more than 230 farmers across North America to find out what needs in the market weren’t currently being met.
“We heard there are four main buckets of expenses farmers want to decrease and the first two we thought we could address were energy and machine maintenance,” says Yaghi, adding they also heard that existing solutions are complex, expensive and don’t always offer a good return on investment.
Their first solution is the free Rakr app that manages, schedules, and tracks preventive maintenance on all barn equipment and calculates the cost savings when recommended maintenance has been completed. According to Yaghi, it helps farmers reduce down time by alerting them to perform simple maintenance checks and repairs from a “to do” list within the app.
The app prompts users to identify all barn equipment they want to track and monitor by brand and model – items like fans, robotic milkers and boilers, for example. It then catalogues the equipment and creates a preventive maintenance calendar based on maintenance requirements. Currently it is specific to dairy, but there are plans to launch versions for the pork and poultry industries as well.
The NeatMeter, launching next year in Ontario and Idaho, is a unit that attaches to the electrical panel in the barn and by gathering and analyzing data, will provide real-time monitoring of barn equipment and predict maintenance needs.
According to Yaghi, the system also shows users how much they can save per month and the steps they need to get there, making it easier to demonstrate value and return on the farm. They’ve been testing and developing the system on a network of eight trial farms in Ontario.
Finding the value in maintenance
Ian Matheson runs one of those trial farms with his wife Carley and brother Scott – a 50-cow tie stall dairy in northern Oxford County that they bought about a year and a half ago as an add-on to their hog operation. He began testing a NeatMeter in July to see how it could help their two farrow-to-finish hog operations.
“Our electricity costs continue to rise as energy costs increase, and we are constantly looking for ways to manage the costs,” Matheson says. “We are now able to graph our usage throughout the day and our goal is to be able to chart individual energy consumption on the farm almost right down to individual motors.
“The Rakr team has added maintenance schedules and parts inventory listings to the app so that everyone on the farm should eventually have it in their pocket at all times. I’m looking forward to seeing where their team can take this system to gain efficiencies throughout our entire operation, not just the dairy side,” he added.
Ultimately Yaghi hopes to integrate NeatMeter with more wireless technology to help reduce costs across all aspects of the farm, and he encourages farmers with R&D ideas to get in touch with his company.
“If you have an idea, we are here to try it out and here to listen,” he says. “People have lots of ideas but nowhere to turn (to execute them), and it’s taken me by surprise how the sector here is wanting change.”