Ir­ri­ga­tion on de­mand

CityPress - - News -

Imag­ine if your crops could “tell” how much wa­ter they needed.

Tokyo-based ven­ture SenSprout has been con­duct­ing ex­per­i­ments in In­dia with a sys­tem that could im­prove farm­ing, re­duce costs and save pre­cious wa­ter re­sources.

SenSprout has de­vel­oped an agri­cul­tural wa­ter-mon­i­tor­ing sys­tem that takes guess­work out of farm­ing.

In joint ex­per­i­ments with the In­dian In­sti­tutes of Tech­nol­ogy, a 50cm-long tube with three patches of elec­trodes made of resin film, cov­ered by a thin layer of cop­per, is in­serted into the ground. The tubes sense the elec­tro­static ca­pac­ity of the soil and de­ter­mine the amount of wa­ter con­tained in the ground.

Farm­ers can re­motely check the data on their com­put­ers or smart­phones to de­cide if their plants need more wa­ter.

The sen­sor sys­tem can help farm­ers avoid wast­ing wa­ter, a scarce and often ex­pen­sive re­source in dry ar­eas. And it can help farm­ers in Ja­pan per­fect their pro­duce through con­sis­tently cor­rect lev­els of wa­ter.

SenSprout’s sen­sor uses low-cost ma­te­ri­als. The pro­duc­tion costs for one unit is less than $926 (R13 423).

The project was funded with $169 931, which in­cludes a mone­tary award of $150 000 in a ven­ture startup com­pe­ti­tion, and do­na­tions through crowdfunding.

The sen­sor was de­vel­oped by a re­search team led by Yoshi­hiro Kawa­hara, an as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of in­for­ma­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion en­gi­neer­ing at the Univer­sity of Tokyo. He is a tech­ni­cal ad­viser to SenSprout.

Shim­bun – Mari Fu­jisaki, Asahi

City Press is the South African part­ner of Im­pact Jour­nal­ism Day, a global ini­tia­tive that col­lects so­lu­tions­based sto­ries from around the world. See page 15

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