Irrigation IoT system delivers 30 percent water, 50 percent energy savings

The system is based on Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxture IoT architecture and platform and the Microsoft Azure IoT suite

An IoT system to monitor and control farm irrigation systems developed by water management and irrigation company WaterForce, Schneider Electric and Microsoft is reducing water consumption by 30 percent and energy used for irrigation by 50 percent.

The system is based on Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxture IoT architecture and platform and the Microsoft Azure IoT suite. It enables farmers to control pivot irrigators via a laptop or smartphone based on information from the irrigators and environmental data such as temperature, soil moisture content and wind speed and direction.

Details of the system were presented today at the Microsoft Inspire event in Washington DC.

WaterForce has been developing the system, known as ScadaFarm for the past four years but according to Schneider Electric a key recent development is the use of its WonderWare Online Insight in conjunction with Microsoft Azure to provide advanced analytics and historical data capture across desktop and mobile.

“WonderWare Online InSight collects and stores high fidelity, time-series data from multiple, disparate sensors and smart devices in a secure cloud environment,” Schneider Electric says.

“Information is delivered to authorised users, via web or mobile, in easy-to-digest power analysis and intelligent reporting tools such as charts, dashboards, newsfeeds and alerts.”

Schneider Electric has highlighted deployment of the system at Blackhils Farm on the Rakaia River, a 400 hectare farm with over 1000 cattle 800 lambs and growing kale, beet and rapeseed. It runs six pivots, the largest being over 700 metres in length. Schneider Electric has today posted a video on YouTube about the installation

Saadi Kermani, business development manager for Schneider Electric Software told Computerworld NZ “Sensors on the pivot look at water usage and at the amount of energy it takes to move the pivot, at the number of times it needs to make a circle to dispense x amount of water to make sure the saturation level is on target.

“There are also sensors to read temperature and wind speed because we are open plains of land the wind can get up to 100km the spray starts to go sideways. Also the wind can damage the pivot, so they can align the pivot with the wind direction.”

He said in the past the water and energy bills were aggregated across the farm but now usage could be broken down to individual pivots.

Kermani, said the system had two main parts: all the control of the pivots is handled locally using on farm systems, the usage and environment data is sent back to the Microsoft Azure cloud where data analytics can be used.

“The ability to understand the status of a piece of equipment or the utilisation of water and energy is what is most interested to the variety of people that are part of the farming operation and they are scattered all over the place.”

ScadaFarm uses the Vodafone cellular network for communication and WaterForce is planning to take the system overseas. In October 2016 it announced plans to use Vodafone’s global SIM, saying this would enable it to operate ScadaFarm on mobile networks in 70 countries. 

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