NH3 (Soil), Humidity (Soil), CO2 (Air), Solar Radiation (Air)
Automated hydroponics, Three season strawberries
Regulations Addressed by Solution:
Business Case / Problem:
Strawberries are extremely sensitive to temperature and solar radiation fluctuations. Swings in either value cause low-quality, small strawberries to be grown.
Controlling the heating, lighting, and nutrients getting to the strawberries can be a labor intensive process. If automated without real-time data collection, strawberries can stop growing or die due to fluctuations
Modifying lighting, temperature, etc… by hand is very expensive and time consuming requiring a “strawberry expert” in most cases.
Soil Humidity, temperature, oxygen content and nutrient content is tracked in real time via sensors placed into the hydroponics system at key intervals
Solar radiation information is collected across the greenhouse/farm to determine the exact amount of light reaching the strawberries
Using this real-time data, automatible components of the system (different on a case by case basis) such as the blinds in a greenhouse, nutrient feed in a hydroponics setup, and irrigation system in a more traditional farm are automated.
The provider of this solution will usually provide strawberry experts from a central location to advise on automation rules and data monitoring/analysis options.
Note: An example of this use case being used for a Japan installation may be found HERE.
System Diagram & Hardware Used:
Hardware Manufacturer: N.Thing
(Gateway) 1x Tailor Gateway
(Sensor) 10x Tailor Humidity, Temperature & Light Sensors (Wireless)
(Actuator) 4x Tailor Actuator (Wireless)
Other Possible Hardware Vendors:
Advantech B+B Smartworx
Installation Process Overview:
1. Hardware selection and review of the strawberry farm/greenhouse’s pre-existing systems. Specific hardware and connectivity used in the project is usually decided at this point.
2. Arrival of hardware and initial setup. Calibration of sensors/devices.
3. Placement of sensor devices out in the field into the soil and/or hydroponic system. Initial tests of actuators and connection to pre-existing system are done at this time.
4. Thing+ site and dashboard is set up. User rights and roles are created while setting up the user/operator/administrator hierarchy.
5. A Thing+ platform based monitoring dashboard is set up for operators and stakeholders to view and work with sensor data and to control actuators. Testing is performed directly on actuators from the dashboard.
6. Automatic warning / automation rules are set up in the system (automated detection of undesirable nutrient levels, excessive solar radiation, etc….) for notification to operators and for use in operating the actuators.
7. Final checks of the dashboard, rules and data analysis choices are done. Operators at the site are educated on how to monitor and use the system. In some cases, operators are also educated on how to add new rules if required for automation of the SMS/email/etc.. warnings.
Automation & Rules Guide :
Example Rule #1: Send SMS based on soil nutrient problem
Trigger: Nutrient levels (NH3) are too high
Action: Send SMS message to operator including sensor & location
Example Rule #2: Send SMS & email to operator based on low sustained luminosity levels
Trigger: Solar radiation is extremely low
Action: Send warning SMS and email with data on location of solar radiation issue (could point to shutter/etc.. problem)
Impact on Operations:
Operators should monitor data and react to automated warnings to ensure that strawberries grow efficiently
Solar radiation levels across the plantation should be analyzed every few weeks to ensure lighting levels are optimal for strawberry production
Recommended Data Analysis Options:
Example Data Analysis #1
Solar Radiation Analysis
Data: Solar radiation across the entire plantation
Frequency of Analysis: 7-30 days
Goal: Determine what parts of the greenhouse are not receiving enough light at different times of the year and day.
Due to shutters and greenhouse design, some areas of the greenhouse may not get optimal amounts of light – use solar radiation detectors spread across different locations in the greenhouse to detect this along with a weekly/monthly data chart on Thing+
Example Data Analysis #2
Data: NH3 concentration fluctuations
Frequency of Analysis: 7-30 days
Goal: To determine potential problems with nutrient feed system
NH3 concentration should be used to determine areas of the greenhouse that are being under/over fertilized
Large fluctuations in NH3 content can show some potential blockages or problems in the hydroponic system – such abnormal data should be used to pinpoint issues before they become disruptive
Nutrient feeder system can be optimized by ensuring each part of the greenhouse is getting a steady flow of nutrients. Large fluctuations in nutrients may indicate the nutrient feeder system needs to be changed
A wifi connection at the site was assumed. If it does not exist, 2g, 3g or another WAN network connectivity may be used.
Support & Maintenance Requirements:
Sensors may need to be recalibrated once per year (depending on specific hardware used)
Farms may need assistance with analyzing their data. In this case, support should include analysis of data and providing actionable information to farmers via a strawberry expert
Installations of this Solution:
An example of this solution being used for a Japan installation may be found HERE.
An automated picking system could be added along with sensors to sense size and weight of strawberries for complete automation of the system