Smart Farming: Water Management Utilizing Automation

In the world of agriculture, where the weather isn’t always a reliable ally, innovative technologies are an advantage for resourceful farmers.

Irrigation systems were initially created to overcome water scarcity and optimize crop yields, but these systems have struggled with water waste and imprecision. As we move into the age of smart farming with devices like IoT (Internet of Things), we’re seeing new possibilities in irrigation that can combat these shortcomings.

The 2010s ushered in the era of cloud data communication, paving the way for real-time insights. By 2018, 6 million acres of U.S. land were irrigated with micro irrigation, underlining the growth of efficient water usage. Now, with a projected market value of $2.1 billion by 2025, smart farmers are embracing automated irrigation’s potential to elevate day-to-day operations.

Automation Levels for Farmers

Automated irrigation solutions exist on a spectrum and require different levels of operator support. This can range from the literal “hands-on” approach to fully automated systems. We group this spectrum into four main levels of automation:

  1. Conventional irrigation systems: Manually operated irrigation systems, including markers on tanks and manual cooling valves.
  2. Automated irrigation systems: These systems use a controller to turn valves and pumps on/off, manual cooling program entry, and quantity-based dosing.
  3. Model-based irrigation systems: Sensor-driven data drives these systems to generate a model and build irrigation scheduling.
  4. Precision irrigation systems: The most automated systems utilizing real-time monitoring with influence, based on in-field temperature sensors.

Benefits of Automated Irrigation

Adopting precision irrigation systems has a massive impact on crop yield, but also water conservation and sustainability. By monitoring soil moisture levels, smart irrigation automates watering and minimizes water usage. The benefits extend to:

  • Cost-efficiency through minimized water waste.
  • Streamlined human efforts.
  • A comprehensive view of soil characteristics.
  • Timely alerts in case of anomalies.
  • Long-term landscape health preservation.

Harnessing the Power of Automated Irrigation

At the core of automated irrigation are sensors strategically placed across fields. These sensors transmit real-time data to a central hub, triggering water pumps when moisture or temperature deviates from the norm. This system creates a seamless flow of information, navigated by users through tailored cloud-based platforms or mobile applications.

For precision irrigation, automated irrigation sensors can play different roles:

  • Soil Sensors: Uncovering crucial data about water content, salinity, and more, these sensors enable swift insights into soil conditions, guiding irrigation decisions.
  • Weather Sensors: Evapotranspiration sensors gauge local environmental conditions to craft precise water predictions.
  • Plant Sensors: Plant-mounted sensors detect changes in water status, providing early alerts for necessary interventions.

Enhancing Smart Irrigation

Going beyond sensors, you can customize your smart irrigation. For example, integrating third-party APIs that tap into additional valuable data and help inform your decision-making.

  • Weather Monitoring: Integrating satellite and weather station data refines irrigation schedules, adapting to forecasted precipitation.
  • Location Technology: Precision mapping merges satellite and drone images, optimizing land management.
  • Artificial Intelligence: Automation gains momentum with AI, streamlining tasks and driving data-informed decisions.

Strategies for Different Irrigation Systems

No irrigation system is left untouched by smart farming. Depending on how water is distributed, you can choose an irrigation system that can be enhanced with smart software.

  • Sprinkler Irrigation: Rain and soil sensors orchestrate water delivery, curbing overwatering during rainfall.
  • Center Pivot Irrigation: In-field sensors enhance water distribution precision, harnessing weather and soil insights.
  • Drip Irrigation: Monitoring app notifies irrigation commencement and completion, tracking soil parameters.
  • Micro-Irrigation: AI-driven algorithms determine precise water doses for individual plants.

Looking Forward

We work with farmers who are frustrated with the challenges of outdated irrigation practices. Smart farming offers a strong solution. As we look to the future where resources are used efficiently and yields are maximized, automated irrigation stands as a bridge uniting both technology and agriculture.

– Eli Garrido

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