Projects

AQUATAG/SUTEK: a soil moisture sensing tag

A low cost, short-range, wireless soil moisture sensor for irrigation management in small-scale semi-arid horticulture in Turkey

Posted on 17 February 2014

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Using soil moisture sensors to control irrigation, up to 50 % of water can be saved directly, and indirectly as well fertilizers. Previous research (e.g. FLOW-AID, www.flow-aid.eu) has shown that this is possible, while still keeping the yield and quality at a good level. Especially in (semi) arid areas horticulture can benefit thereof.

Sensors are relatively expensive, and measure only locally, while the moisture content can vary greatly within a valve section. The AquaTag (www.sensortagsolutions.com) is a new, patented concept of a non-contact soil moisture meter. It is low-cost, and can thus be used in large numbers in order to determine an average true moisture content of a valve section. In the project SuTek Turkish growers test AquaTag in their greenhouses.

The AquaTag (www.aquatag.nl) was initially developed for container plants in the Netherlands. In this project (SuTek), now, a watering strategy for horticulture in Turkey with small, soil-based crops is being developed. The aim is to keep the technology accessible and make it available worldwide for crops for which saving of water, fertilizer, energy and cost is important.

The AquaTag was originally developed by SensorTag Solutions (STS), in close collaboration with the Technical University of Delft , TNO, University of Eindhoven and several engineering firms, supported by STW. This project is supported by the Ministry of Economy, Agency - NL, under the program "Partners for Water" (PVWS12003). The EGE University, agricultural faculty (Izmir, Turkey ) conducted experiments on the location in Orhanli at 9 growers.

The project is on-going until 2nd half 2014. The AquaTag was positively evaluated at the growers site in December at the GrowTech Eurasia 2013 in Antalya (TR).

Growers (cucumber, peppers, green beans) placed five sensors per valve section. Once per day measurements were carried out with the hand-held meter. Based on the average moisture content, the hand meter gave an irrigation advice (yes/no irrigation and amount). Crop type, soil type and crop stage were taking into account. Water amounts were compared with those of valve sections where the growers determined the irrigation, without use of the sensors.

In the sensor-controlled valve sections a more even moisture content and a saving of 23-45% of the water was obtained, compared to the unregulated valve sections.

Goals

This project supports the ecological drive to increase the efficiency of water usage for agriculture (More Crop per Drop) as well to save the environment by reducing the leaching of water and fertilisers to surface and ground water by using simple and affordable technologies. It aims to tackle this problem by making low-cost, easy to use soil moisture sensors available for end-users (farmers) that can be implemented by these farmers in a fairly simple way under low-tech conditions.

Deliverables

  • A usable and tested work method for the AquaTag system for small scale low-tech farmers in Turkey.
  • Educational, promotional and supporting material for the work method.
  • Local dealers for the AquaTag.

Technologies used

AquaTag, Frequency Domain Soil moisture measurement

Project location

Project partners