One of the core concepts behind smart farming is the “cyclic optimization process where data have to be collected from the field, analysed and evaluated and finally used for decision making for site-specific management of the field”.
This core concept can be provided at several levels of cost and complexity that may not be suitable for the needs of smallholders. For instance, commercial soil moisture sensors, capable of sensing water conditions at several depths can cost thousands of euros. The entire hardware and software platform to manage irrigation in a farm represents an investment (both in terms of money and complexity) that may appear profitable for large farms with technical persons in place but that can hardly be cost-effective for smallholders without technology background.
In many “traditional” architecture, the smallholder is bound to the infrastructure provider as the control system is sold as “Software as a Service” (SaaS) on Internet Clouds with substantial annual fees. In addition, in the context of smallholders, even though there are irrigation techniques that are well-known to be more efficient than others, the cost of installing the infrastructure for a new irrigation technique can also be overwhelming.
Intel-IrriS proposes the low-cost sensor design concept where a set of environmental sensors for irrigation control (e.g. soil moisture/ conductivity/ tensiometry, soil & surface temperature, sun exposure, …) will be designed & built from off-the-shelves low-cost physical sensors following an open design approach. The smart control system (i.e. the gateway) will also follow the low-cost approach, taking advantage of powerful embedded computer boards such as the well-known RaspberryPi which costs less than 40€. Such embedded computer boards will be used as a versatile and smart gateway to receive data from low-cost sensor devices – using state-of-the-art long-range LPWAN radio technologies such as LoRa – and to host the control system as well as all the software intelligence that will be developed: Decision Support System (DSS), Artificial Intelligence (AI), user/visual interface, database, … enabling the “in-the-box” concept where all the components to install, set up and start the entire system are already in place, without any mandatory Internet or remote cloud connectivity. Finally, the whole system can be integrated into existing irrigation techniques/infrastructures where available water that can come from several sources (ground water, river, water harvesting, …). This approach along with the “in-a-box” concept will maximize adoption by smallholders.