Agriculture Automation: smart irrigation

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What is smart irrigation?

Smart irrigation technologies optimize plant irrigation by taking into account various factors such as weather, soil type, plant needs, and others to provide the optimal amount of water at the right time.

Irrigation systems of such a type usually include soil moisture sensors, weather stations, and irrigation controllers and sometimes connect with apps to monitor and control from anywhere there is internet access. They can automatically adjust water use based on actual plant needs, soil moisture levels, and weather conditions.

Benefits: example of calculation/savings per acre of land planted with corn

Typically, a smart irrigation system optimizes water use by giving plants the right amount of water at the right time. Overall, the cost of a smart irrigation system can be significant, but for many, it pays for itself in water savings and efficient use of resources over time.

Experts from the Environmental Protection Agency estimate that up to 50% of water can be wasted through overwatering. Plants can suffer from both under and over-watering. Using smart irrigation systems can reduce watering costs and save up to 15,000 gallons of water per year, even in an average-sized home, let alone a substantial farmland.

Example of calculation/savings per acre of land planted with corn

Corn typically requires 20 to 30 inches of water per season to allow for its full growth and development. This roughly equates to 500,000 to 750,000 gallons of water per acre (or about 1,890 to 2,839 cubic meters).

The average price per cubic meter (or 1,000 liters) of water in the U.S. can range from $1 to $3. Thus, to calculate the cost of 2,839 cubic meters, we get these figures at an average price of $2 per cubic meter:

2839 cubic meters * $2 = $5678

With average savings after implementing smart irrigation of 35%, we get a figure of $1987 per acre per season. This is only water savings without considering the crop quality that will be obtained under optimal irrigation/watering conditions.

For this example, average cost figures were taken simply to demonstrate the potential returns from implementing smart irrigation systems.

Approximate cost of implementing a smart irrigation system

A minimal smart irrigation kit that includes basic components such as moisture sensors, irrigation controllers, and simple monitoring systems can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars or euros. For example, a starter kit might include an 8-zone irrigation controller, a water flow sensor, and appropriate software, all of which can cost around $650 without tax.

A mid-range kit, which may include more advanced technology, weather stations, applications to monitor and control the system from afar, and additional features to adapt to different conditions and soil types, can cost from several thousand to several tens of thousands of dollars or euros, especially for larger plots of land or more complex systems.

For example, a complex system may include:

  • A soil moisture sensor at various depths
  • Flow sensor
  • Air temperature and humidity sensor
  • Water pH sensor
  • Water EC sensor
  • EC sensor, soil temperature, and moisture sensor
  • Dosing pump for fertigation

The price may also depend on the choice of equipment supplier, the need for specialist installation, the type and number of sensors, integration with other systems, and other factors.

The role of IT in implementing smart irrigation

  • Consulting and Design: Software development company can assess your needs, conduct a site analysis, and recommend the best smart irrigation solution given your requirements and budget.
  • Equipment Installation and Setup: This includes the installation of moisture sensors, irrigation controllers, weather stations, and other system components.
  • Integration and Software: IT companies can integrate the smart irrigation system with other control systems, if required, and customize the software to control the system through apps or online platforms.
  • Training and Support: Specialists can train you or your employees on how to use the system and provide support for questions or problems that arise.
  • Maintenance: Depending on the arrangements, companies offer regular maintenance and technical support for the system to ensure reliable operation.
  • Analytics and Optimization: IT companies can also provide services to analyze the data collected by the system to optimize water consumption and improve irrigation efficiency.

IT-Dimension has experience in implementing smart irrigation systems with controllers from various manufacturers, cloud-based solutions, and establishing direct communication with controllers. With access to a public (or closed) API, we can facilitate the automation of interaction with irrigation controllers of different models (check out our Irrigation System case study).

Our team can offer irrigation solutions for web, mobile, and desktop platforms, with options for storing data and irrigation logs locally or in the cloud. Contact us to discuss your future agriculture business automation and then take efficiency to the next level.

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