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Drew Hanging Gateway

Not A Tech Person? Not A Problem!

August 2, 2022

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Michael Hansen


In early December, BarnTools' Drew Mogler spent a cold morning in Northern Indiana installing a BarnTalk system in a pullet house.

Typically, we don’t do installations, mainly because our system doesn’t really need to be installed. You download the app. Plug in the Gateway. Screw in the antennas. Hang the sensors, and that’s it! You’re up and running in about as long as it takes you to walk a sensor down to the furthest end of your barn or house and hang it.

What was different about this morning?

Well, the pullet house we were installing BarnTalk in belongs to a Mennonite customer, and as you may have guessed, he doesn’t own a smart phone. If you didn’t guess that, then I should tell you that Mennonites believe strongly in community, and many avoid the use of modern technologies, such as smart phones, as they believe it can be a distraction from their faith, their families, and their communities.

So, you may ask why someone without a smart phone would want or need a mobile first alarm system like BarnTalk in their poultry house.

Truth be told, he needs it just as juch as every other producer needs it. After all, you don’t spend every waking minute inside your hog barn or hen house, do you?

Neither does he.

But back to the story…

Drew used his smart phone, a ladder, and a screwdriver, and about 30 minutes later, this BarnTalk system was all set up. Once he finished installing, he simply added the number of the non-smart phone owned by the grower as the “owner” role of the account and BarnTalk system in the backend.

Now, even without a smart phone, he has visibility. He has power monitoring redundancies, and most importantly, he has safe birds and peace of mind.

Our Mennonite pullet grower isn’t alone though. He’s joined by many others in Northeastern Ohio and Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Michigan who are using the BarnTalk system in a slightly different way than we initially intended, but in a way no less valuable to their operation.

We first started “plugging in” to this “unplugged” demographic with the help of Jeff Miller from Schlabach Equipment in Sugarcreek, OH.

“We came across BarnTalk on the internet,” said Jeff. “Most of the customers we work with were using Sensaphones with a Verizon ‘Black Box’ to call out. Verizon shutdown their 3G networks and sent us their 4G version of the ‘Black Box’ which will still allow the Sensaphone to call out, but an alarm can’t be acknowledged by our phones anymore,” he explained.

“Some of my guys live 20 miles or more away from their farms so their Sensaphone just kept on calling them and the only way to acknowledge it is going to the farm and pushing the button there on the Sensaphone in person. We had to come up with something else.”

Jeff started doing his research to make sure he found a system that would check all the boxes for his customer base. “We didn’t want to have to go out and get internet to all of these sites, and that would have been a deal breaker for many of my Mennonite and Amish customers,” he stated. “What really impressed me about BarnTalk was that it’s a single unit that you put in, and it has its own service.

If Verizon’s strong, that’s what they use. If the other company is strong, that’s what they use. We needed a system where alarms could be acknowledged by both a smart phone and an old flip phone, and we also needed to have dry contact integration to a controller.”

Jeff continued, “After calling into BarnTools, I still wasn’t convinced. I thought this was another alarm where you’re going to have to have a smartphone, or internet, you’re going to have to do this or that. I talked to BarnTools again later that same week, and they had everything we needed up and going so I was impressed. I was really impressed.”

After seeing it all in person and installing his first system, he added “What I really like is the wireless sensors that you can hang anywhere.”

Installing the BarnTalk Gateway

At the request of these growers and in the spirit of our philosophy of continuing to evolve as an alarm solution, the BarnTalk developers quickly added several features to help our non-smart phone users:

  1. Alarm calls can now be acknowledged from non-smart phones. That’s right. These folks are still able to get a call telling them exactly what needs attention inside their barns and the exact reading from the sensor sending the alarm call. They can acknowledge and silence their alarms straight from their keypad.
  2. There is an on-site siren. Similar to how we can connect dry contact circuits to the BarnTalk system, we can also now connect to an on-site alarm siren. If a customer loses power at the site, but either doesn’t have electricity at their house or is on a separate breaker, or even if they just prefer an onsite alarm, they know right away, without a phone call that there’s a problem.
  3. The dry contact circuits have been further developed on the backend to allow alarms and notifications on open or closed circuits and for the alarm to be triggered immediately or on a custom delay time. These dry contact alarms can also notify by the user’s choice of a push notification or a phone call and SMS text message depending on urgency.
  4. We have created an easy access web version of our mobile app for customers that have office computers in their hog barns and poultry houses. We quickly learned that many of our non-smart phone customers do have computer access in their office, so we built out a version of the app just for them. This web portal version of the app allows users to see current sensor readings, threshold settings, and other data, just like the smart phone app.

So, what’s next?

Good question. Our Mennonite pullet grower now has his BarnTalk system fully set up and at his request, we connected his production supervisor and service tech to the system as well. As a grower, our customer believes that spending time with the birds is key to their success. That’s why he walks the entire house 5-6 times a day. However, he’s a farmer. He’s not an administrative expert.

With BarnTalk now installed, many of the tedious office tasks are now removed from his plate, such as daily hi/lows temps, daily water consumption, humidity and light readings, which ultimately frees up more of his time to do what he enjoys most about his work—spending time with the animals.

Drew in Poultry Barn

The Takeaway:

Ag Tech isn’t just for tech happy, young farmers getting started in the field. It’s for the practical producer, and it’s for everyone. We feel confident that the BarnTalk system is the easiest-to-use tech you will ever put in your barn. Easier than your controller, and easier than wiring your last alarm. It’s so easy that it’s being adopted by folks in communities that are so resistant to new technology, that many of them don’t even have electricity in their homes.

If it works for them, it can work for you.

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