Software apps and online services
Agriculture is the single largest employer in the world, providing livelihoods for 40% of today’s global population. There are approximately 475 million smallholder farms (less than 2ha in size), which make up 12% of the world’s agricultural land and produce 80% of food that is consumed in Asia & sub-Saharan Africa.
Most of these are subsistence farmers earning less than USD$5 per day, who rely on traditional practices to achieve their crop yields. For these farmers, enabling productivity and finding efficient processes will have a direct impact on their income.
Furthermore, emerging population growth and changing food consumption patterns are expected to drive demand for these farmers to almost double their food production by 2050.
However, with 1.5 billion ha of arable land on the planet almost fully utilised, the only way to sustainably increase food production is by increasing crop yields and intensity. To achieve this we must develop cost effective technology that will provide efficient irrigation and agricultural water management.
Our solution is centered around Artificially Intelligent Irrigation technology, to help small farmers improve their livelihoods and efficiency. Our irrigation technology will be a low cost and scalable solution to enable a more efficient use of inputs, such as water, fertiliser, energy & labour, resulting in increased yields and enhanced quality of crops.
The benefits have been documented through research surrounding the impact of efficient irrigation technology on small farmers (IFC, World Bank Group):
Efficient irrigation allows farmers to:
- Use less water to grow the same amount of crops
- More productively farm larger areas of land using the same amount of water
- Use the same amount of water to grow higher value, more water-intensive crops
Efficient irrigation reduces the amount of fertiliser needed per plant:
- Nutrients can be dissolved in irrigation water & applied equally
- Reduced waste product
- Reduced labour requirement
Efficient irrigation reduces energy usage:
- Less water is needed for a comparable area of irrigation
- Less energy is required for pumping less water
- Automation means irrigation can take place at optimal energy times (night)
Efficient irrigation decreases the amount of time spent:
- Reduced time watering - as is now automated through irrigation system
- Applying fertiliser as this is also achieved through the system
The solution can be broken into 3 parts:
- Data collection of Soil Moisture
- AI program to determine when to trigger system
- Triggering watering systems
Data collection of soil moisture:
Using the Soracom Global Air SIM, Raspberry Pi Zero, Grove Base Hat, Huawei USB Stick and a moisture sensor, we could send readings of the soil moisture to our AI Code (AWS Lambda function) through Soracom Funnel. This can be placed anywhere in the farm.
Set up of this system can be viewed here:
Also code for the Raspberry Pi Zero:
The data passes through Soracom funnel to AWS IoT, where the set up of a simple rule allows the data to be passed to AWS Lambda.
The Lambda function will then place the data into a dynamoDB table and determine whether the water system should be triggered.
This code will decipher the measurement relative to what crop is growing in the soil and decide whether watering is needed. However, before watering the program will check weather patterns 12 hrs in the future to look out for rain and prevent wasting water through the over watering of crops.
Furthermore, this program can also look at the optimum watering times of the days and automatically trigger the watering at those times.
To trigger the watering, the program will trigger a webhook, set up up previously, to activate the watering system and then after 10 minutes (depending on watering strategy) it will trigger another webhook that deactivates the watering system.
*Due to lack of time I was only able to program a check that if water moisture is less then a threshold, it will trigger the water system
Access to trigger watering systems:
We will be triggering the water systems by leveraging ITEAD's 12V Channel Relay as well as a solenoid valve.
When a webhook is triggered, the ITEAD switch will activate the solenoid valve to let water through the watering system as well as deactivating the system to stop the water flow.
This can be achieved using the platform IFTT and which can be connected directly to the 12V Channel Relay using the webhooks and EWeLink Applets.
The webhooks can be triggered using our AWS lambda code after collating the soil moisture data and future weather predictions, this trigger was seen above in our Lambda Code.
Here is a picture of the set up fo the 12V Channel Relay with the solenoid valve:
This project is missing some fine tuning but the fundamentals are there to turn this into a true solution for developing farmers.