The Department of Information Technology at the University of Huelva (UHU) and the Polytechnic University of Cartagena (UPCT) have developed a smart irrigation system which is able to simultaneously measure soil, air and water parameters for agricultural crops. The system, called GAIA2, consists of a network of nodes, each of which works like a small computer that can be configured to measure soil (temperature, moisture) and environmental (atmospheric pressure, room temperature relative humidity) parameters, as well as the quality of the irrigation water.
The main advantage of this system, which consists of a set of wireless devices, is that it can be configured to analyze the different variables depending on the crop, offering customized water management solutions. Another advantage is that the nodes, in addition to acting as sensors or data receivers, also serve as information bridge between different nodes. This feature, known as gateway, is used to monitor crops in plots separated by a distance of up to ten kilometres.
"The basic goal of the gateway is to ensure communication between the various sensor nodes and the office where the base station receives and interprets the data. In large areas, there may be interference that interrupt or hinder such communication, as with the telephones. By acting as a bridge, the gateway ensures that data arrive correctly," explains the expert.
This dual function, receiving and communication, is another advantage of the device. "In irrigation systems currently available on the market this duality is not an option. What is most usual is to use two different nodes, one for each function," continues the researcher.
From a physical standpoint, the nodes also stand out for their sturdiness. According to the expert, The GAIA2 sensors are designed to be placed at ground level or buried, without fear of breakage when agricultural machinery is used. Furthermore, due to their small size, about 20 centimetres high, there will be no need to remove them during fumigation.
Multi-functionality allows one node network to be used with different types of crops, including vegetables, fruits and vineyards. It is only necessary to change the type of sensor. For example, if you want to measure the water status of a tree, you will use a dendrometer.