A smart soil irrigation system monitors and waters the soil in designated areas. A network of autonomous sensors, along with a control module, generates a soil moisture map and oversees the irrigation equipment fitted with docking stations.
3 → 6
We initiated the project from a concept developed by a startup. As the system needs to operate in agricultural field, we encountered the following challenges:
Ensuring the autonomous functionality of all system modules in the field.
Poor mobile network coverage, complicating remote server communication.
The startup prioritized creating a user-friendly and affordable system, which required us to reduce the cost and simplify the hardware of the chemical analysis module and the executive module.
PCB electronics development
Firmware (embedded software) development
Human interface development
Mechanical and CAD design
Prototype manufacturing & testing
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The development of the system was carried out in 2 stages. In the first stage, EnCata worked on the soil chemical analysis module, which takes measurements at predefined intervals and transmits data over the LoRaWAN network to the central control module. To enable the chemical analysis module to function as a standalone unit outside the system, a BLE module was added, allowing direct retrieval of data stored in the internal memory log.
During the second stage, EnCata developed 2 modules: the central module, collecting data from the analyzer module and using it to send signals to the executive module, and the executive module,receiving signals from the central module,initiating the soil irrigation and fertilization.
The system is designated for operation during the summer months in open environments. As a power source for all modules, solar panels were selected, which charge the installed lithium batteries within the enclosure.
In the development of the control module, we opted to forgo cloud servers and placed the applications servers on a single-board computer within the central module. When an internet connection is available, the system can be remotely managed, and in its absence, direct connection to the central module is possible via Wi-fi, allowing manual system control within the Wi-Fi range.
For IoT systems in agriculture, reliability and cost-effectiveness are top priorities. Agricultural areas often have poor cellular network coverage, so it’s crucial to plan for additional communication and control methods during the development stage to enhance system reliability, such as incorporating Wi-Fi or BLE modules. Additionally, hosting application servers on single-board computers within the control modules, rather than in the cloud, helps ensure robust system operation.
To reduce the system’s production cost, we replaced the off-the-shelf LoRaWAN modem with an RFM95 module, which functions as a transceiver rather than a modem. This decision did increase the development cost due to the extra effort required to modify the firmware. However, it allowed us to employ a significantly cheaper (almost 3 times less expensive) radio module for implementing LoRaWAN communication.
EnCata has developed a smart soil irrigation system and manufactured prototypes of 3 modules:
Analyzer module, which collects soil data.
Central module, which gathers data from the analyzer module and sends signals to the executive module.
Executive module, which receives signals from the central module and initiates the soil irrigation and fertilization.
To operate the system, EnCata has developed software based on LoRaWAN.
range of operation
for system control: remotely through the mobile network and directly via Wi-Fi modules.