Smart IoT Sensor Nodes Resist Water Scarcity in Precision Agriculture


Hivemind is developing a sensor to measure soil moisture and soil nutrition with enhanced irrigation systems with wireless technology.


Why water waste is a serious issue in agriculture

Water scarcity is a severe issue in many regions all over the world in particular in Asia, Africa, Australia and South America. Most of the affected areas are either suffering from global warming or are using their freshwater resources excessively. Agriculture is the biggest water consumer in the world using 70% of the overall available freshwater. In some Asian countries like China this amount is over 80% due to the prevalent inefficient canal irrigation systems. Much of the water is wasted due to inefficient water irrigation systems or the unsuitable selection of crops. The cultivation of cotton takes an enormous amount of resources using up to 29’000 Liters of water per kilogram. At the same time there are crops like wheat or potatoes using only 2-3% of the water needed for cotton. The freshwater reserves are decreasing rapidly around the world which leads to a dramatic global deterioration in the near future. Since the world's population is growing by 1% every year there is no doubt that water usage in agriculture needs to be limited.

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How can IoT help to decrease the usage of water in agriculture?

Today’s IoT technologies offer solutions to collect a broad variety of different data at multiple and different destinations, e.g., soil moisture level and air temperature. Besides data acquisition, intelligent algorithms allow to learn the behavior of a particular environment and describe it in a mathematical model. This model could describe how the soil dries depending on the air temperature.

If this environmental model is feeded with collected data and weather forecasts, it is able to determine the amount of water needed to be irrigated at the right time frame.

This is just an illustration of one of the various possibilities of IoT in combination with data science. This example could easily be extended with multiple connected sensor devices and irrigation systems.

Hivemind’s solution to allow agriculture to be more efficient

To face the problem of water waste in agriculture Hivemind is developing on the one hand a sensor to measure soil moisture and soil nutrition. The sensor is called HORTUS. On the other hand, Hivemind enhances existing irrigation systems with wireless technology to control them automatically from remote.

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HORTUS is a battery-powered sensor device equipped with LoRaWAN wireless technology and a subset of different sensors. The engineering of such a device creates different challenges that needs to be resolved. HORTUS is designed for use in harsh and rough environments. The needed mechanical robustness in the field is guaranteed with an intelligent housing design. The metal rails on both sides of the sensor node ensure stability and are used for measuring the electrical conductivity of the soil at the same time. For a flawless user experience, HORTUS is able to outlive multiple years after it is inserted into the ground. To reach the necessary battery life time, state-of-the-art low power technologies are used for power management. This allows to benefit from lowest possible sleep currents and an efficient delivery of high peak currents during data transmission. The acquired data is only valuable when transmitted/received through the LoRa gateway. LoRa’s chirp spread spectrum like modulation is offering up to 151 dB of link budget which allows to overcome distances of multiple kilometers.

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