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Kent Keppler BarnTalk

Correcting Human Error with Cutting-Edge Barn Monitoring

November 21, 2022

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Michael Hansen


When it comes to caring for pigs, waiting to resolve a problem or emergency when it strikes isn’t an option. For Kent Keppler, owner of New Horizons Pork in Lamont, Iowa, status quo alarms have failed to meet the needs of today’s producers for that very reason.

“I always thought the industry needed to update and do something different from a technology standpoint with these alarm systems,” said Kent, who oversees a 5,000-sow farrow-to-finish enterprise.” You have to have an extremely dependable, 24 hour service. We really just didn’t have that. The equipment just wasn't there.”

For over 20 years, Kent monitored some of his sites with an alarm system run by a call center. But too often, alarm calls came in long after a problem was originally detected.

“There would be issues where we’d not be getting calls on time. We’d get an alarm triggered, and it wouldn’t be until a few hours later before we would get the call. That just wasn’t acceptable.”

Third Alarm’s the Charm

While four of Kent’s sites were monitored by the call center alarm hooked into a landline, another six had Agri-Alert alarms connected via cellular boxes. With the unreliability of the call center posing an increasing risk to his operation, Kent considered switching all of his sites over to Agri-Alert. But the process would’ve been complicated, expensive, and ultimately unfeasible.

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“If I went to the Agri-Alert, I would’ve had to separate and bury wires across the barns. It would’ve taken a lot of time, along with the initial cost going into it.”

Connectivity issues for both of Kent’s alarm systems was a constant battle, but he says the hassle of replacing the Agri-Alert’s deficient cellular boxes was especially frustrating. “I didn’t have the time to sit there and try to get the device swapped out if it's bad. It’s a really tough process to switch out one cellular device with a new one.”

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BarnTalk Gateway in Barn

Kent sought out to find a smarter solution for monitoring his pigs. After seeing a YouTube video about BarnTalk from This’ll Do Farm, he was excited to discover a wireless alarm system he could implement across his operation.

“BarnTalk was simple to install, and I don’t need to deal with cellular service. It’s plug and play.” Today, Kent has BarnTalk installed at the 10 sites he previously monitored with Agri-Alert and the call center.

The Human Element

On days when New Horizons’ pigs are moved out to market, Kent’s growers will turn alarms off at the site. After the pigs leave, they’ll switch the alarms back on after turning over the barn. “I like to monitor that to make sure that alarm is turned back on in case they missed it. With the old system, I couldn’t see if they turned them on or not.”

Sometimes, growers would forget to turn the physical switch for the alarm back on. “We all make human errors like that.” With their old Agri-Alert, Kent and his production managers could bypass alarms, but someone would physically have to be at the site to know if the alarms were active. “I would not always know if the alarms were turned on.”

Now, Kent is using the BarnTalk web portal and mobile app to see exactly which alarms are turned off or on.

A Self-Testing, Reliable Solution

Kent’s production managers used to manually check their old alarms weekly to ensure they were functioning properly. After switching to a self-testing alarm, Kent says they’re saving time and gaining peace of mind.

“Every two minutes, those sensors are communicating back to the Gateway. If there’s a problem, it lets you know right away.”

As Kent reminded us, we’re all human and mistakes happen. By leveraging reliable connectivity and dependable alarms, New Horizons Pork is lowering the probability of losses caused by human error to achieve cutting-edge production.

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