Agroconsulting

DSS + Sensors + Dataloggers + Scholander Pressure Chamber

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Agroconsulting

Case Study Contents

About Farm

Farm Name

Agroconsulting (Antonio Díaz)

Year of foundation

2011

Location

Jaén, Andalusia

Farm area/size of the organisation:

6.5 ha

Number of workers:

8 seasonal workers

Farm main activity:

Olives

Climate and soil characteristics

Farm located in the Guadalquivir Valley, next to Sierra Morena. Extremely dry summers and mild, wet winters, less than 400 mm of rain per year. Sandy soils, poor in organic matter, with a low moisture retention capacity and significant deficiencies in minerals, potassium, zinc and manganese.

Measure Information

Description of the measure

The implementation of a remote-control system with sensors managed by a Data Logger connected to a web platform (DSS). The station has 3 sensors connected at different soil depth levels (10, 30 and 55 cm); it also monitors air humidity, air and soil temperature, solar incidence. Control of the humidity of the wet bulb, control of water stress (algorithm + Scholander Chamber), control of climatic parameters and control of possible diseases (mainly risk of fungal growth).

Objective of the measure

The objective was to know the exact moment to apply irrigation to optimise water consumption adapted to the needs of the crop. In addition, the aim was to obtain meteorological information and implement indicators that would allow the farm’s sanitary management to be adjusted.

Justification of the choice

The scarcity of water in the area, the sandy and poor soils, the cold and wet winters, as well as the proliferation of fungal diseases, made the farmer decide to install these sensors.

Irrigating more frequently and using less water, as well as anticipating the need for phytosanitary treatments, justify the implementation of this measure.

Where did You get information of the measure from?

The information was obtained through the service provider (Agroconsulting), who has adapted and developed a technological solution tailored to the needs of each farm.

Description of the situation before the measure implementation

Before the measure, the farm consumed more water than it needed even though consumption was below its concession. Much of this water was percolated and was not used by the plants, which meant that water use was not as efficient as it could have been. In addition to generating fuel consumption for its extraction, which did not generate a return.

Stakeholders

Stakeholders involved

Agronutrientes (Antonio Díaz)

Description of stakeholders’ role

Agronutrientes carried out a previous soil and water quality assessment, as well as a sanitary assessment of the farm. After this preliminary study, they installed the equipment, trained the farmer in its use, and keep a periodic relationship of maintenance and control of water stress using the Scholander Pressure Chamber.

Implementation phase

Materials used

  • Weather Station
  • Temperature sensor (soil and air)
  • Air humidity sensor
  • Soil humidity sensors (10,30,55 cm).
  • Solar panel
  • Data Logger
  • Mobile data SIM card
  • Web platform
  • Scholander Chamber (service provision)

Costs for the implementation

Installation 800€.
Services and annual maintenance.

Utilization of subsidies

Modernisation grants under the ERDF plans are intended to cover the costs of such measures that seek to increase resource use efficiency.

Implementation / building

It is necessary to position the station where it can record meteorological values. The probes with the soil sensors must be placed in the wet bulb, where the water falls from the dripper, positioning them at different depths (10, 30, 55 cm). These are connected by cables to the Data Logger, which records the data and sends them in a log file to the web platform.

Required maintenance operations

Great care must be taken during farming and harvesting not to damage the equipment or dig up the soil sensor.

Annually it is recommended to remove the underground sensors, clean them, and bury them again.

Through the web platform the status of the station (battery, radiation, etc.) can be monitored so that any problems can be identified.

Recommended knowledge / skills / training / courses / education desired before starting the measure implementation:

If outsourced, no major skills are required, apart from the ability to interpret graphs of historical data recorded on the platform.

If it is to be built, knowledge of electronics and computer science is required. Soil, agronomic and agro-climatic knowledge is required for the interpretation of the data.

Impacts

The evaluation of the wet profiles (measured by sensors) identified a loss of water through percolation after first 8 hours of irrigation. This has justified the change of irrigation shifts by increasing the frequency and reducing the time per irrigation. This has impacted on a reduction of inefficient consumption by almost 50%, with fuel savings of 25%.

The change in the irrigation schedule has made more water available to the plant, reducing percolation and nitrate leaching.

Similarly, the intensity of groundwater abstractions is reduced, giving groundwater levels more time to recover at times of peak demand.

As the frequency of irrigation increases, the number of days worked and the need for labour increases, especially if these tasks are covered by salaried personnel.

Social impacts can have a negative impact by increasing wage costs.

However, this must be compensated by the reduction of inefficient consumption (water and fuel used to extract it).

Innovation

Innovation elements

The digital recording of physical data through sensors is one of the fundamental premises of precision agriculture.

The integration of data loggers to manage this data and their mobile communication with web platforms for information visualisation is an innovation that helps farmers to make decisions (DSS).

Key element for success

Of course, the availability of the supplier’s technology and know-how is essential to adapt the equipment and design the DSS to the farmer’s needs.

For his part, the farmer must be predisposed and aware to undertake the investment and optimise his agronomic decisions by analysing the data obtained.

Constraints

Physical constraints

The sandy nature of the soils and the low availability of water requires optimisation of water use during the dry months. High permeability reduces irrigation efficiency and increases the risk of underground nitrate contamination.

Technological constraints

There are physical events that cannot be recorded with the equipment in place (there is the possibility of introducing other tools) such as disease risk or water stress. This has been solved by the inference of indirect indicators through algorithms based on the data recorded by the station, as well as by the use of Scholander Chamber.

Acceptance constraints

Many farmers are not aware of the soils they are working and the extent to which they must adapt irrigation schedule to avoid wasting water through percolation.

Lack of knowledge of the existence of these solutions, the cost of the equipment and the lack of awareness limit the dissemination of these technologies.

Proposed solutions to above constraints

This type of solution has a low cost for the benefits obtained, and its implementation should be compulsory along with the water exploitation concessions. In this way, irrigation allocations and schedules could be adapted to the real needs of each farm.

Lesson learned

Farmers’ experiences

The farmer’s experience has been very satisfactory, changing his perception of water management on this plot, as well as on other plots he manages.

Testimonies

Testimonies”Many farmers base their management on lessons learned and past experiences, but there is unknown information that can only be accessed by applying technologies such as those here described”.

Measure sustainability

Environmental sustainability

More efficient and less intensive use of groundwater helps to ensure the sustainability of the aquifer in the medium term.

Reducing percolation helps to reduce nitrate pollution of the subsoil.

In addition, it must be considered the reduction of emissions from mechanical energy sources, used for extraction.

Economical sustainability

There are two effects: on the one hand, we increase the efficiency of water use, reducing percolation and fuel consumption.

On the other hand, labour costs increase, as well as the cost of investment and maintenance of the equipment.

However, the net balance is positive if we consider the sustainability of the aquifer, guaranteeing the availability of uncontaminated water in the long term.

Transfer of the measure

Replicability conditions required

  • Farmer awareness
  • Knowledge of technology
  • Economic capacity
  • Technical knowledge
  • Existence of trained suppliers
  • Political support
  • Existence of limiting factors (soil, water, etc.)

Additional Required Conditions for spreading the measure

  • In Spain, this type of technology is being promoted by the public administrations through subsidies for irrigation improvements and improvements in resource consumption.
  • It is necessary to develop professional profiles that combine knowledge in precision agriculture to cover a growing demand.
  • More training is needed for farmers to be more open to this type of practice and to generate greater demand to boost this sector for the future.
  • These types of measures can be implemented on any farm and are highly recommended for better control and optimisation of resources.
  • In any case, they are especially recommended for farms and areas where there are limiting factors such as water scarcity, weather, or soil conditions.

Conclusion remarks

Precision agriculture must offer solutions for the future that enable better monitoring of farms and help to make decisions that optimise resources.

This is a case in which the use of sensors and the analysis of the information obtained has made it possible to change irrigation management, guaranteeing agro-economic and environmental sustainability.

Future plans

The insights gained from this solution have allowed changing mental structures and working mechanisms.

The dissemination of the lessons learned is changing the way of working of other nearby farmers who are seeing the positive impacts of these changes.

Open problems

Technological solutions have many utilities, sometimes each farmer must find out how such a solution meets his needs.

For this, it is essential that the user has curiosity, as well as the will to continuously improve and change things.

Advice/recommendations

“On many farms there is a lack of information, where things are done as they have always been done or as the neighbour does them.
Having continuous information about your farm, in an accessible way, can change your perception of what you have been doing up to now”.
ES05_04

AGRIWATER project has been funded with the support from the European Commission, with the reference number 2020-1-CZ01-KA204-078212. The content of this website reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

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