Joburg-based farms cut losses with cloud surveillance

Issue 4 2023 Agriculture (Industry)

In 2020, Watcher Surveillance Solutions was approached to provide a farm security solution by a third-generation family farming operation in the south of Boksburg. It was initially thought that the requirement was for a perimeter surveillance of the farmhouse and/or warehouses and equipment, but on visiting the farm it was revealed that the requirement was actually to protect the crops from the neighbouring community.

The farms span approximately 450 hectares and produces a variety of vegetable crops, including cabbage, carrots, potatoes, etc. This farm is surrounded, and in some cases divided by a large rural township. The large farming area is surrounded by an easily penetrable fence, which thieves bypassed on a nightly basis to help themselves to the harvest-ready crops.

The security company employed at the time had a dedicated patrol vehicle, but could do little to stop the rampant theft, especially at night. Power provisioning did not extend to the perimeter of the farm which means absolute darkness in the area after the sun goes down. The thieves would simply lay flat in the crops when the patrol vehicle would approach from far and hide until it passed. Even with additional lighting mounted on the patrol vehicle and spotlights, the security guards could not see the hiding thieves.

Conventional costs too high

Watcher investigated and found that placing conventional static cameras to secure the perimeter would not be financially feasible. The cost of providing not only the number of cameras required to cover the perimeter, but also to deliver power to each of the cameras, was simply too high.

After much consideration, Watcher opted to install a series of point-tilt-zoom (PTZ) cameras mounted on concrete poles placed at strategic locations. These particular PTZ cameras have a 55x optical zoom lens, which allows you to see up to 1200 m during day, and up to 700 m at night using Infrared technology. A total of ten poles were provided, each powered through solar energy, and all communications is wireless connectivity back to the main sector, from where all the video feeds are routed to the Watcher SOC (surveillance operating centre) using a fibre connection.

Solar power and cloud monitoring

A dedicated operator in the SOC then monitors the 10 cameras and notifies the onsite armed reaction unit of intruders. The advantage of the system is that the whole farm can be effectively monitored on one screen, and the thieves hiding in the crops can be seen by the surveillance officer using Infrared and thermal camera technology. The surveillance officer on duty then communicates the thieves’ actions and locations to the patrolling security guards on site, who take the necessary action.

Despite an increase in the general crime rate, the surveillance solution from Watcher has drastically reduced the losses suffered by the farm. The task seemed impossible due to the size of the area needing protection and the number of intruders entering on a daily basis, but with the technology provided by Watcher and the brave and dedicated patrolling officers provided by FEAR Security, the farm’s financial sustainability is once again secure.

Plantations Farms co-owner, Charles Farinha notes, “We are very pleased that Watcher’s technology is the main contributor in providing an effective security solution that yields tangible results by significantly reducing crop losses. Watcher provided an innovative technical solution and continues to provide an effective surveillance service”.


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