Design and implementation of an automated irrigation control system for optimal water usage and enhanced agricultural productivity
PublisherUniversity of Botswana, www.ub.bw
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Irrigation of crops is essential for profitable crop production in most arid regions. The “million dollar” question is: when to water, and how much water is needed? The answer to this question lies in the development of innovative ways of irrigation control. In most irrigation installations in developing countries, the trend is to irrigate or to water the crop at the farmer’s hunch without relying on scientific data. They do not use accurate data logging systems that gather data about the condition of the crop. This traditional approach of irrigation results in too much or too little water being delivered to the crop resulting in crop stress and reduced yield. This document outlines the design, development and implementation of a ‘smart’ and innovative automatic irrigation control system with Internet capability. The system makes use of accurate scientific methods of finding out if plants need water. If plants are found to be in need of water, the controller automatically triggers the system to deliver the right amounts of water to the crop. The design employs the Internet of Things (IoT) applications to automatically connect and download weather data and weather-forecast information from the OpenWeatherMap Internet server. The OpenWeatherMap is a Meteorological services provider company which is situated in London in the United Kingdom. OpenWeatherMap collects, stores and automatically disseminates on request, weather data about any geographical location in the world over the Internet. Through the automatic irrigation control system, the farmer is able to receive weather updates and weather forecast information covering the next thirteen days. The received weather data comprises ambient temperature, barometric pressure, ambient humidity, wind speed, sunrise and sunset times. The automatic irrigation control system’s ability to combine data from agricultural sensors and weather forecast information available on the Internet allows for optimisation of irrigation activities, thereby saving water and improving crop yield. To cater for situations where there are internet outages, the system has an in-built mini-weather station which measures local ambient temperature, ambient humidity and barometric pressure. The Internet capability of the system also enables the manufacturer to easily render remote technical assistance to the farmer. The system allows the farmer to use a smartphone or a personal computer to remotely monitor system parameters and crop performance from anywhere in the world through the Internet. The prototype was subjected to several validation tests and the results suggest that the system may reduce irrigation water consumption by 26%. It was concluded that the smart automatic irrigation control system results in optimised water usage and increased crop yield.