In North Rhine-Westphalia, many growers grow potted plants outdoors. They determine, among other things, on the basis of experience, when plants need water. This can sometimes lead to overwatering. The producer then has to spend more money on irrigation (which takes place with fixed sprinklers or irrigation booms) for water, energy and labour. In addition, valuable fertilizers can then seep into the soil, which is also restricted by environmental regulations. Too little watering is also possible and leads to quality problems and reduced production.
The project uses sensors from the Dutch company Quantified, which communicate wirelessly with a cloud-connected gateway via the Internet or a 4G connection. Three humidity sensors are used per valve section, which, to reduce costs, all operate via the same transmitter. The grower can monitor the moisture content of plants in the corresponding section of a website. In addition, the sensors also provide other relevant information, such as EC content and temperature in the pot, but air temperature, relative humidity and sensor position are also monitored.
Some German crèches are now equipped with this system. The next step is an alert system based on artificial intelligence. The goal is for a grower to receive a signal if the system expects the moisture content of the plants (within an hour, for example) to fall below a threshold value. In addition, the experimental station is working on a method to calibrate the sensors for different types of culture media.
The project “Nursery Cultivation Support System” is funded by the project promotion program under the European Innovation Partnership “Agricultural Productivity and Sustainability” (EIP Agrar), which is an integral part of the Nordrhein-Westfalen program for rural areas 2014-2020 and jointly funded by the EU and North Rhine-Westphalia.
For more information:
Wageningen University and Research