Equipment: fire prevention technologies

The risk of fire in agricultural buildings is a source of concern for many farmers. If electricity is often the main culprit, the latest automation technology can detect anomalies and fix the problem.

What’s more, in the heat of the moment, the “incumbent” manufacturer discovers that having installed equipment that alerts him to a power failure not only allows the defect to be fixed on the spot, but is also an advantage in reducing production downtime and achieving greater operational efficiency.

According to official figures, more than 30% of farm fires are caused by power failures. However, approximately 40% of building fires are of unknown cause, and it is believed that the most common cause is electrical. “Prevention means having a good knowledge of your electrical network so that you can detect faults,” says Pierre-André Meunier, co-founder and president of PrevTech Innovations. The act of warning is found only in a corrective measure brought to the point. It’s like going to the doctor, making a diagnosis, but not following his prescriptions. »

This automated equipment is primarily intended for dairy farm owners (presence of moisture, heavy loads, hay and straw). [inflammables]etc.), pigs (ammonia corrosion, high humidity, oxidized or blackened copper wires, etc.) and poultry (heating system, gas in the floor [ripe]etc.).

Between neutral and ground

Electrical noise (or “current leakage”, “electrical losses”) occurs when current is lost to ground or conductive elements such as water and metal. Current flows abnormally through the wrong channel. In addition to the risk of fire, this phenomenon leads to energy wastage.

“Current is always looking for the shortest path,” explains Francois Routier, co-owner and R&D director of Monitrol. So, if you have faulty or waste equipment (motor, fan, pump, generator, lighting system, etc.), current will flow through the ground or surrounding conductors. »

These energy losses or bad contacts create an overvoltage on the electrical panel, causing the device to “stop” the flow of current. Thus, the reader module monitors the total leakage current of the faulty equipment and the temperature of the electrical components.

“The circuit breaker has oxidized inside, and if its mechanism is not working properly, it cannot detect leaks that cause overvoltage in the switchboard,” explains Mr. Routier. This defect generates heat and the probe warns us about it. »

Easy to install

MAXIMUS Prevention, with more than 30 years of experience in the field of automation, not only reads any electrical interference in real time, but also monitors the difference between the ambient temperature in the room and the temperature of the electrical panel.

Some companies do a simplified installation – no need to remove the wires from the panel – using a donut-shaped probe (“split core”). For its part, Monitrol’s FarmGuard system can connect up to 8 electrical panels and 64 reading points to help identify faulty equipment. The parameters measured by the reader modules are stored in the memory of FarmGuard, the data collection tool. Average, minimum and maximum readings are recorded every hour. “The exact time of the maximum peak of the day is recorded, which allows you to accurately monitor and evaluate energy use on the farm,” adds Mr. Routier. It is also possible to get detailed and personalized reports and graphs through the FarmQuest service. Finally, for greater safety, in the event of a sensor or probe malfunction, we have provided for a shock and integrated a self-test device (activity detector) into the monitor.

Critical threshold

MAXIMUS Prevention, with more than 30 years of experience in the field of automation, not only reads any electrical interference in real time, but also monitors the difference between the ambient temperature in the room and the temperature of the electrical panel.

When accessing the module remotely, it can be accessed to quickly diagnose the source of the problem, for example, via a tablet. Up to 100 electrical panels can be connected. All connected equipment is a point for reading and anomaly detection. “If the temperature difference is 20°C or more, the problem must be addressed immediately,” warns Mr. Huntington, sales representative for Maximus. This differential is programmed by default. However, this value is regulated in accordance with the requirements of insurance companies. The control module reads the current flow and the current returning through the neutral. If this difference is higher than 500 milliamps, the situation indicates a significant failure in the electrical network and an alarm will go off. »

The farmer has remote access to an electrical monitoring dashboard that gives him an overview of the risk index. Instant alarms are sent via SMS, email and, optionally, telephone line. “It is very important to intervene quickly,” recalls Michael Huntington. Our solution speeds up intervention, remote access, and call sequencing based on recipient order. Programming to stop the equipment is also possible. »

In addition, the interface is customizable and multilingual (9 languages) to account for the presence of foreign workers on farms.

The PrevTech system was tested for 20 months prior to its launch to determine thresholds, red flag times, and overheat detection in electrical panels.

The PrevTech system was tested for 20 months prior to its launch to determine thresholds, red flag times, and overheat detection in electrical panels.

False warnings

For its part, the PrevTech system was tested for 20 months prior to its launch to determine thresholds, red flag times, and overheat detection in electrical panels.

Since too many false positives can cause users to disable the module, an algorithm is used to identify situations where there is a risk. “The manufacturer can be aware of the problem in advance and take the necessary corrective action,” explains PrevTech’s president. In many cases, we will simply avoid the unpleasant consequences of a shutdown. »

Finally, the systems do not depend on the farm’s Internet infrastructure and are protected from cyber attacks.

Once automation equipment is installed and operational, we understand that preventive management leads to loss reduction and increased productivity, unlike the disruption and loss of income and jobs that can occur as a result of a natural disaster.

Insurer, “in alliance” with the manufacturer

These new prevention tools allow farmers to protect themselves from manageable risks. Insurance companies are already offering discounts and other benefits to farmers who take action. These innovations are not a smokescreen, they bring tangible economic benefits to the agricultural community.

Roger Riendo, special collaboration