Smart irrigation aims to improve water and labour efficiency
By Fruit and Vegetable
By Fruit and Vegetable
With climate change increasing concerns about water conservation, sustainable irrigation systems that reduce water consumption are a hot topic for ag tech developers. According to the World Bank, agriculture accounts for an average of 70 per cent of freshwater withdrawals globally. With the added factor of needing to produce more fruits and vegetables to feed a growing population with less water, efficiency is the name of the game.
More than three years ago, Ontario’s Vineland Research and Innovation Centre partnered with LetsGrow.com, a European horticultural data platform, to jointly develop a watering algorithm that will integrate into the “MyLetsGrow” data platform. Through this system, growers receive a notification from this Decision Support System (DSS) via MyLetsGrow when the plants need water.
The DSS will reduce water consumption, as well as save money in labour and improve the quality of irrigation. As Hussam Haroun, Vineland’s director of automation, noted in an October 2020 presentation, other irrigation automation methods cannot fully replace a skilled scout or grower, leading to labour or technological inefficiencies. In helping develop the DSS, the two companies sought to develop an algorithm for grower irrigation strategies that could provide irrigation decisions based on sensor measurements.
“With the DSS, Vineland and LetsGrow.com have developed a practical solution to water more effectively. This makes it very easy for every potted plant grower to grow data driven and to create labour savings resulting in increased yields,” said Ton van Dijk, LetsGrow.com’s global head of sales and operations, in a statement.
Vineland’s DSS is integrated into MyLetsGrow and makes it possible, through machine learning (AI), data collection and plant physiological models, to offer irrigation advice to growers. The DSS has proven to reduce water usage by 15 per cent, reduce irrigation labour by 47 per cent and increase efficiency by five per cent.
Validation tests for the DSS were conducted at select Ontario greenhouses in 2020, with additional greenhouse tests taking place in 2021. Any greenhouses and growers interested in early adoption of the technology are encouraged to reach out to Haroun (Hussam.Haroun@vinelandresearch.com) or van Dijk (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information.