Sireco

Automation of irrigation systems

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Sireco

Case Study Contents

About Farm

Farm Name

Sireco (Samuel Hernández)

Year of foundation

2018

Location

Andalusia, Seville

Farm area/size of the organisation:

97 ha of super-intensive organic almond.

Number of workers:

8 workers

Farm main activity:

Almond

Climate and soil characteristics

The organic almond farm is located in Seville province, with summers of 40 degrees Celsius and average rainfall of 520 mm. The farm has a great variability of soils, clays and sands, and some areas with steep slopes.

Measure Information

Description of the measure

In the conversion of the farm from herbaceous crops to almond trees, Sireco was responsible for the installation of an automatic irrigation system, managing through the same head two sources of water, from a well and from a pond of the nearest irrigation community.

The installation has 2 bands of above soil irrigation on each side of the crop line, for this they have 20 mm pipe with integrated drippers at 75 cm distance, with flow rates of 1.6 litres/hour.

Objective of the measure

The objective was to automatically manage the alternative start-stop of both supply points, the change of sectors, self-cleaning filtering, and fertigation.

Justification of the choice

Managing two supply points with different irrigation shifts (well-day and pond-night) using the same head to manage all the operations for a 100-ha plot required an electronic system with complex programming.

Where did You get information of the measure from?

The farmer had previously been a customer of Sireco and requested a solution for this plot of land that they wanted to convert from arable to permanent crops.

Description of the situation before the measure implementation

Previously the plot had arable crops that were irrigated with a well and a pivot irrigation system with a radius of more than 300m.

Stakeholders

Stakeholders involved

CBH
Sireco

Description of stakeholders’ role

CBH is one of the largest service providers for intensive plantation in Andalusia.

Sireco is a service provider for the installation of automatic irrigation systems, in this case they have done the design, implementation, commissioning, farmer training and subsequent maintenance.

Implementation phase

Materials used

  • Connections to water sources
  • Meters
  • Flow control
  • Pressure control
  • PVC and polyethylene pipes
  • Rings
  • Sectorisation manifolds
  • Solenoid valves for changing sectors
  • Self-cleaning ring filters (10)
  • Fertigation system: 4 tanks of 3000lt, Blowers for dilution, Injection pumps
  • Siemens 1.200 automaton (Industrial)
  • Pressure switches, flux switches to control filter openings and closings, or to stop in case of pressure losses.
  • Pressure regulating valves
  • 20 mm pipe with integrated drippers 75 cm with flow rates of 1.6 litres/hour.

Costs for the implementation

272.000€

Implementation / building

Sireco developed the connection to the supply sources, which are joined together in a single head from which the automaton manages all the operations.

Pressure switches and flux switches allow then to control pressures, opening and closing systems for filtering and cut-off in the event of a fault.

They also installed pipes and the double band on each side of the crop line.

Required maintenance operations

The sectors are checked daily by a person who ensures maintenance of breaks and cleaning of the end of the line to avoid blockages.

Of course, as it is an irrigation system placed above ground, it is necessary to be very careful with work, especially weeding.

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

Agronomic knowledge is necessary for the design of the plantation, the irrigation system, and the automatisms according to the needs of the crop and the farmer.

Knowledge about the types of soil to select varieties and irrigation solutions, whether single or double line, surface or underground band, etc.

Impacts

Automated systems allow 24/7 irrigation without the need for operator, taking advantage of off-peak and peak hours of electricity consumption.

The design with a single head allows reduction in the investment cost compared to if each water source had its own head.

The automatic system allows homogeneity (pressures-flow rates) throughout the farm, as well as avoiding breakdowns due to human error.

The ecological management of the farm has made it possible to maintain plant cover, mulching, introducing beekeeping for pollination, introducing auxiliary fauna for pest management, installing ponds to improve biodiversity, introducing sheep for weeding, and improving soil organic matter.
The farm has grown from a low labour-intensive arable crop to a permanent crop farm with almost 10 people working.

Ecological management has reduced the use of hunting in the area.

Mechanical weeding of grass can be a problem, in the case of this farm it has been replaced by sheep.

Innovation

Innovation elements

When it was planted, it was the largest super-intensive organic almond farm in Andalusia.

Innovative features include pressure controls, sequential filtering, and fertigation automation.

The use of a single head for two supply sources is unusual, with a manifold for automatic sector change.

Key element for success

It was important to stay in line with the farmer, adjusting the design to his needs. The farmer wanted equipment that would be reliable in the long term.

For this it is essential to use good materials, guarantee a filtering system and manage pressures to ensure safe working. This can be helped by oversizing some equipment, as it allows a longer service life by reducing the number of cycles.

Constraints

Physical constraints

The water concession was insufficient to irrigate the whole plot, which led to sectoring it considering the topography, with smaller sectors in higher areas.

The soil variability made it necessary to adjust certain areas, installing double or single-band irrigation.

The biggest challenge was to manage two sources of supply, which conditioned the entire design.

Technological constraints

The farmer chose not to install communication systems for remote monitoring and control, which limits some of the functionalities that are now becoming widespread.

These developments require very specific professional technical profiles with extensive knowledge in hydraulics, agronomy, and electronics.

Acceptance constraints

On the one hand, farmers are initially reluctant to use these installations because of the investment required and because they do not initially trust the automatisms.

On the other hand, workers are reticent because they consider that it will take away their work.

The reality is that those who install it increase their quality of life and are not willing to give up these technologies.

Proposed solutions to above constraints

Irrigation with automation is essential in farms of a certain size or with complex irrigation structures.

The dissemination of its benefits and the impact on the quality of life should be sufficient to change its levels of acceptance.

It is necessary to create specific profiles through VET to guarantee the availability of professionals for future demand.

Lesson learned

Farmers’ experiences

The experience has been so good that the farmer has replicated this system on other farms, covering a total of 300 ha of permanent crops.

Testimonies

“Irrigation automation pays off in the long term and greatly improves the farmer’s quality of life”.

Measure sustainability

Environmental sustainability

As we have seen, the ecological management justifies its environmental sustainability, with significant improvements in soil and biodiversity.

On the other hand, automatisms have limited the possibility of breakages and have allowed a better use and planning of irrigation shifts, aspects that result in greater efficiency in the use of water.

Economical sustainability

The investment has made it possible to bring the farm into production quickly, which has reduced the break-even point of the new plantation, as well as guaranteeing the availability of water for a crop with a high demand for water resources.

The choice of a single irrigation head has meant savings up to 40% in the investment required to manage two supply points.

Transfer of the measure

Replicability conditions required

  • Economic capacity.
  • Irrigation system planning and design.
  • Install irrigation before planting.
  • Size for economies of scale.
  • Adapt to crop or new planting.
  • Consider presence of biotic agents.

Additional Required Conditions for spreading the measure

  • There is a need for greater dissemination of complex automated systems, systems that allow any parameterisation.
  • Development of multidisciplinary professional profiles (irrigation, electronics, and agronomy). These systems are usually designed by engineers.
  • The need to reduce costs will encourage the growth of this type of installation.
  • A certain dimension is required to make the installation of such systems worthwhile.
  • Other standard systems do not allow parameterisation and adaptation under complex conditions.

Conclusion remarks

The future of the sector will be conditioned by the evolution of precision agriculture and automated systems.

Farms with complex irrigation structures or with a certain size need this type of automation to ensure good management.

The functionalities are multiple and the impact on agronomic management and farmers’ quality of life is enormous.

Future plans

These systems are usually complemented with communication systems that allow remote irrigation management, which results in greater control capacity and quality of life for the farmer.

Additionally, the system can be complemented with a solar energy system, or the use of variators to adjust energy consumption to the demand of each supply point.

Open problems

It is not easy to find experienced professionals who combine knowledge in agronomy, irrigation installations and electronics for automation.
ES02_09

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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