In recent years, maple syrup producers have relied on innovative vacuum tubing that draw more sap from trees than the traditional spout-and-bucket method. But leaks or clogs in the tubing require syrup makers to waste valuable time tromping through the woods to find the problems.
However, sugar-makers Meadowbrook Maple Syrup in Vermont have installed Tap Track, a wireless tracking system that monitors the flow pressure in the tubes. Powered by solar batteries, the system’s radio units strap to trees and can monitor the pressure of a half-dozen lines. Data is then relayed to a computer or smartphone, where optimal sap flow is indicated with green dots and problems are denoted with red dots. That way, leaks and clogs can be pinpointed and quickly fixed. The system even sends text alerts when problems arise.
Meadowbrook’s operation includes around 5,700 trees with about 18 miles of tubing that crisscross more than 100 acres. Owner Donnie Richards told the Associated Press that in the past, he and his crew would walk the woods listening for leaks. Now he checks his lines using his iPhone.
Even though the new system costs $1 to $2 per tap, inventor of Tap Track, Jason Gagne, says a return on such an investment can be seen in just one season. On a testing site of 20,000 taps in Ontario, he said his system resulted in a 5 percent increase in sap, yielding an extra $15,000.
For the first time during syrup-making season, the University of Vermont’s Proctor Maple Research Center is also using a similar remote tracking system called Smartrek. Eric Sorkin, of Thunder Basin Maple Works and a distributor of Smartrek, is impressed.
“Whether it’s mine or Tap Track of any of the other systems, the technology is fantastic,” he said. “With these remote monitoring systems, we can effectively lower our labor costs and increase our production.”
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