RPI + Sensors for agricultural equipment

Hi, I have a small project and looking for some assistance/advice. I have a background in IT but am new to Node Red and this type of hardware.

What I am attempting to do is create a monitor/control panel for a piece of agricultural equipment, a hay baler to be exact. The control panel will be a Raspberry Pi 3 with a touch screen running Node Red. The panel will be mounted in a tractor and will display data supplied from various sensors on the baler which is to be towed behind the tractor.

I have a basic Node Red UI configured using inject nodes to simulate the sensor data. Where I'm at now is working out how to implement the sensors.

From the research I've done so far I have this:

Some kind of Wifi ADC (ESP8266) type device on the baler to transmit wirelessly to the RPI in the tractor. Looking for recommendations on which device? How reliable are the wifi connections - would wired be more reliable(cable runs could be ~10m)?

LJ8A3-2-Z/BX (inductive proximity sensor 6-36V DC LJ8A3-2-Z/BX cylinder proximity sensor) for some movement triggers - am I better off using a 5v version of the sensor?

Pressure Transducer Sensors 5V 0-1.2Mpa (generic ones found on the net 5v DC Pressure Transducer Sensor 0-1.2 MPA Oil Fuel Diesel Gas Water Air F for sale online | eBay) for the pressure sensing.

Eventually I also hope to be able to control a couple of valves on the baler, maybe using stepper motors? Also load sensor to feed weight info back to the RPI. But small steps first.

Any assistance or advice much appreciated!

Hi @AusCoraJase Welcome.
Maybe you should protect the raspberry pi and touch screen for humidity, will are exposed!
there is a hardware HMI - Human Machine Interface that could help you!

if you have a wifi network near of work area, you could use ESP8266 or ESP32 without problem! but maybe the tractor have to move to around. so the devices could lost wifi signal!

Maybe could use a Zigbee Network for example or BLE, Also The enclosure (IP67- 68) it is so important for electronics devices.

Hello and welcome to the forum.

There are probably so many ways for doing what you want that one could easily spend more time discussing it than building it :stuck_out_tongue:

And the Node-Red involvement is probably the least of your design considerations.

Also, I suspect there is already a handful of open and proprietary systems already doing something similar, so I would seriously spend some time researching and compering. Sometimes it is far better to go with established than DIY (if less fun for us DIYers) or at least basing your plan off of what already works.

However, for my two cents...

Wired is always more reliable than wireless, but at a cost of convenience. But since power is also a factor, combining power and data over a single wired link is always a nice combo punch.

Internet access is another consideration... is it necessary? If so, could it be provided easily and affordably in the needed local, the field, via cellular or long range terrestrial WiFi. Or have the system self contained until everything comes home to roost and upload any stored data for recording purposes, analysis or just maintenance/updates.

I would consider having two RPi devices connected via ethernet, possibly with custom POE to power everything on the bailer side.

The main RPi in the tractor running the display, node-red, MQTT broker and any internal sensors deemed necessary.

Then a 2nd RPi on the baler handling a MQTT client and wired to all the needed sensors and controllers, whether directly or possibly via sub-MCUs like Arduinos, ESPs, etc. With the POE feed powering everything needed.

As already mentioned above, environment is a significant factor. Temperature, humidity and (particularly with bailing) dust and vibration. Keeping the sensors and the MCUs safe, and making them easily replaceable (they will break down), would be another important design consideration.

While there are a multitude of ways to (potentially) accomplish this, I think you are asking for trouble if you decide to put many MCUs plus a RPi on the baler and expect high reliability.

There are reasons why companies like JD charge thousands for their telematics systems. That said, I wish you all the very best with it. :smiley:

PS there is nothing small about this project :laughing:

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