Yeah, We Splunked a Greenhouse

Rick Fink Big Data, IoT, Splunk, Uncategorized


At rSolutions we see Big Data Analytics insights everywhere, as a Splunk Consultant II and Splunk Architect I just can’t help seeing data in everything since I started using Splunk. In January of 2016, the heater that warms my father’s greenhouse failed, which destroyed a crop of summer flowers, tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers. In Saskatchewan, Canada the winters are particularly cold and notoriously unpredictable; and my dad needed a way to know if the heat had failed in the greenhouse.



Where others see problems, at rSolutions we see…well, solutions. So I suggested to my dad that we  Splunk his greenhouse. It began with a simple idea to understand whether the heater was on or off, but as most Splunkers know, understanding the first problem often opens your eyes to much greater opportunities.




Soon after setting up his instance on the greenhouse to track the heater being on or off, it became apparent that to understand heat within the greenhouse also meant understanding the ambient environmental conditions outside. Using a universal forwarder (free app – thanks Splunk!) I piped in data from Environment Canada’s website, which forecasts the temperature, weather conditions and sunlight each day. It worked well, but having to supply forecasts for such large geographical areas in Saskatchewan often lacks the needed accuracy to benefit the greenhouse to its full potential.


We looked online and were able to purchase some inexpensive, but effective sensors.  Now, dad and I were able to get accurate heat readings from inside the greenhouse and from outside as well.

So now when the greenhouse is getting too cool, the heat kicks in and when it gets too hot, dad knows when to open the shutters and allow the space to cool. This insight into the heat of the greenhouse solved a problem, but it also showed them that there were even more possibilities.


Winter growing requires heat, but with shorter days of winter and the low winter sun, its also important to understand the light required to grow plants optimally. The Daily Light Integral (DLI) was developed to provide a measure of cumulative photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) received by plants over the course of the day. It integrates light intensity in micro-mols per square meter per second (μmol/sq m-sec) and totals this over a 24-hour period – much the same way rainfall is calculated in inches or centimetres per day.


It seemed like the next logical step, so dad and I expanded the sensor network to gather light information using photo sensors. As the greenhouse grows mostly perennials and vegetables, it needs approximately 12 moles or more per day. So, if it’s a cloudy day, dad can switch on the grow lights to provide the needed mols.


We gathered the “sensor network data” with Arduino and forward it to a Raspberry Pi with a free afore mentioned Splunk Universal Forwarder App installed that makes all the data digestible for Splunk. This gives my dad incredible new insight to the workings of his greenhouse and has taken a short term challenge and transformed it into an impressive opportunity for long term growth. It really is a metaphor for the power of Splunk; to work in any “environment” and show opportunities for “growth” never before envisioned.


Through this process I made a Splunk believer out of my dad and we even have plans to integrate utility rate data to better understand greenhouse operating costs based on power consumption. The insights are out there, often right under our noses, sometimes it just takes the challenge and the right technology to unlock that hidden potential.

Elite Splunk Partnership

At rSolutions we’re an Elite Splunk Partner in Canada providing Splunk Licensing, Professional Services and Managed Services.  We have the largest team of Splunk Professional Services consultants and architects in Canada, servicing clients across North America. If Splunk is on your radar, connect with us to unlock the power of our experience and our approach to peerless client value at