Automated Agriculture Irrigation Systems| a Closer Look

Automated Agriculture Irrigation Systems| a Closer Look

Sat Jan 20 2024

As climate change leads to shifts in precipitation patterns and global water scarcity concerns rise, there is increased interest in more advanced, efficient irrigation techniques for agriculture operations. Automated agriculture irrigation system technology allows farmers much more control and precision over field watering compared to traditional manual applications. These consist of an integrated setup of sensors, smart controllers, and distribution systems that can intelligently monitor soil moisture conditions and schedule irrigation precisely when and where plants need it within set parameters. When appropriately designed and installed, automated irrigation systems for farmers can optimize yields while conserving water usage substantially compared to imprecise water allocation.

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System Components

Completing an automated agriculture irrigation system installation that meets the needs of the agricultural space requires bringing together a variety of high-tech and mechanical elements seamlessly to create a cohesive water control and delivery network. Core components found in a properly planned automated setup include:

Central Computer Controllers

The brain of the automated system consists of one or more smart irrigation controllers that integrate real-time data on soil moisture, upcoming weather forecasts, past watering schedules, and more to evaluate conditions and determine when to activate water flow with little or no human input required. Advanced models leverage AI to improve judgments over time. Control boxes feature LCD screens for status notifications and settings adjustment.

Soil Moisture Sensors

Strategically buried sensors throughout the irrigated land area continually measure the level of moisture and nutrient content within root zones. This data gets communicated to the main controller to influence timing and volume decisions dynamically. Sensors ensure the system recognizes precisely when additional moisture is warranted versus overwatering. 

Solenoid Control Valves

These specialized plumbing valves are opened and closed remotely by the irrigation computer upon requirement. Solenoids regulate the passage of water into individual subsections of piping that lead to plant root areas. This allows for zoned watering tailored to specific crop needs only where and when supplementary moisture gets called for.

Distribution Pipelines and Drip Emitters

Buried PVC pipelines deliver water via dripline tubing or micro spray heads directly into crop root zones for absorption when triggered by the system’s programming. Emitters and micro-sprinklers discharge set volumes dictated by the controller slowly to avoid a runoff. Many emitter types and spacings are available based on the crop varieties to nourish. 

Rain Gauges

In addition to underground moisture readings, above-ground precipitation gauges installed near fields monitor recent local rainfall. Automated controllers factor total rainfall into decisions to delay or deactivate scheduled irrigation cycles after adequate natural precipitation occurs. By accounting for rainy weather, automation prevents wasted water and expenses running activation cycles when ample moisture is already present.

System Components

Benefits of Automated Agriculture Irrigation System

The innate value of implementing smart watering automation comes from the heightened control, precision, flexibility, and oversight it introduces – all of which translate into operational and cost efficiencies difficult to match with manual irrigation management. Major advantages of automated agriculture irrigation systems include:

Precision Water Use

Automated systems apply only the necessary amount of supplementary water dictated by environmental sensor data instead of broad pre-scheduled watering times. This prevents oversaturated soils through responsiveness to actual moisture deficits. Targeted precision application reduces water usage by up to 50% compared to traditional sprinkler systems.

Optimized Crop Quality and Yields

Carefully monitoring soil conditions and plant water needs through sensors leads to providing crops with the ideal hydration levels at the right growth stages. Insufficient or ill-timed watering hampers development. Automation consistency generates higher crop yields and premium quality over manual inconsistencies. 

Labor Cost Reduction

Being able to leverage smart technology to evaluate conditions and govern irrigation needs autonomously reduces the man hours and associated labor expenses related to field watering duties significantly by eliminating the need for workers to turn systems on and off manually based on best guesses.

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Benefits of Automated Agriculture Irrigation System

Considerations for Effective System Design

Migrating to automated technology inherently cannot guarantee efficiency and performance advantages on its own without adequately incorporating site-specific variables and priorities into irrigation design plans from the outset:

Field Size and Topography

Field geometry, elevation contours, and the presence of uneven terrain like hills and gulleys affect planning including the number of sensors needed and optimal emitter and pipeline placement for even coverage.

Water Supply Volume

Source capacity must sufficiently cover daily peak usage requirements to support installations across additional farmland. Peak demand forecasting ensures adequate system sizing and avoidance of shortages stunting growth.

Soil Composition and Drainage

The rate at which installed soils retain moisture and the speed of drainage after irrigation or rainfalls determine cycles. Sandy soils drain faster than heavy clays, requiring more frequent watering with sensors guiding appropriate intervals. 

Local Climate Conditions

Historic weather patterns including temperatures, precipitation rates, humidity, and seasonal variation get factored into baseline controller programming. Systems expandable to integrate future local climate data improvements. 

 

Considerations for Effective System Design

Installation Process

The process of setting up an automated agriculture irrigation system well suited for the land area it will service involves several key phases best left to qualified pros:

Supply Pipe Connection

Initial installation steps focus on establishing the mainline pipeline for the property that will source water from the well or primary reservoir into the control equipment. Pipe sizing is determined during design to provide adequate flow rates and pressure. The supply manifold gets outfitted with backflow preventers, pressure regulation, and main shut-off valves before routing underground. 

Mainline Pipeline Burial

Interconnected PVC pipelines distribute water across the entire property underneath the surface. Pipe position depends on field boundaries, existing natural elements like creek beds that must remain undisturbed, and any obstacles like roads or buildings. Buried mainlines tap into individual zone valve boxes.

Placement of Control Components

Strategic locations get selected for the centralized irrigation computer, associated control wiring, and additional system accessories like rain or moisture gauges for optimal monitoring of baseline conditions across all irrigation zones.

 Testing and Calibration

Upon full assembly, installers activate the pump and water supply to test for leaks along the piping lengths. Flow rates and pressure get calibrated zone-by-zone using manual overrides and catch to balance the system output. Sensors also undergo placement testing to validate readings. 

Initial Programming

With construction completed, the irrigation designer initiates the controller configuration process. This includes digitally mapping out zones across fields, logging crops planted within each zone, logging the distinct soil makeup, and assigning moisture requirement baselines and watering runtime limits. 

The phased methodology ensures components seamlessly integrate for coordinated functionality that aligns with the site setup for seasons of optimized, self-sufficient irrigation cycles personalized to the crops situated across the agricultural property.

Operating and Maintaining the Automated System

While automated agriculture irrigation system technology is designed to function reliably and accurately over the long haul with minimal intervention, some key operational best practices preserve sustained performance:

  • Monitoring Dashboards: Access daily dashboard insights on current system status, recent water usage relative to leakage thresholds, runtime errors, electricity load on pumps, and monitored ground data against historical baselines to catch issues emerging early.

  • Manage Energy Usage: Review reports on peak demand periods and runtimes to shift high electrical load activities to night phases to capitalize on off-peak discounts from energy providers for substantial expense savings over 24/7 operation.

  • Routine Inspections: Perform periodic visual inspections checking for leaks, damaged drip lines, or clogged emitters impeding flow rates which sensors may not directly detect. Confirm rain and moisture gauges remain clear of debris buildup skewing data.

 Conclusion

Water scarcity threats and a drive toward amplified precision in farming operations have paved the way for advanced automated agriculture irrigation systems to emerge as smarter water application solutions where resource efficiency intersects with production goals. When customized and installed adeptly incorporating site-specific variables like local climate, field topography, and differentials in crops being supported, automated controllers coupled with smart valves, adaptable drip emitters, and telemetry-based soil sensors collectively optimize water usage while removing reliability and consistency problems innate to manual irrigation management approaches.

Although sophisticated in components and performance capabilities, automated programming also creates a simplified user experience for farmers over ongoing watering duties. As the future of agriculture points toward doing even more with less through intelligent systems, automated irrigation systems for farmers offer the capacity to ultimately enhance yields and farm profits as an invaluable pillar while proactively conserving global water reserves.

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