Inadequate food supply due to high population growth is a global threat, and this threat is felt most especially in Africa. Food production by conventional means is not sufficient. Therefore, agricultural production in a greenhouse with highly controlled environmental conditions is expected that the production contributes to a stable supply of agricultural commodities regardless of the weather. Most modern sawtooth greenhouses are equipped with motors on all sides to control the sidewalls plastics that regulate the ventilation and internal heat. The shading mechanism is also supported in the summer due to the direct sunlight. Recirculating fans are widely used in the modern greenhouse as well to ensure ventilation, which prevents scorching, decreases the risk of pests and diseases of the plants. All of these features ensure that the climate inside the greenhouse remains at the optimal level for the maximum yield. In this case study, with the help of the agriculture starter kit, Milesight addresses the challenges of environmental monitoring and system automation inside of sawtooth greenhouses and fully utilizes that data to improve operations and drive overall business success.

Challenges & Requirements

Greenhouses are climate-controlled structures with walls and roofs specially designed for the off-season growing of plants.

  • Manual operation system

The ventilation system composed of motors and fans lacks automation, which can cause discomfort to the workers as they are bound to visit the greenhouse every day and manually control them.

  • Manual data collection

A lot of problems can occur as it affects the production rate because the temperature and humidity must be constantly monitored to ensure the good yield of the plants. Besides, it’s difficult to make some sort of data logging for further research.

  • Increased manpower expenses

Operating greenhouses on such a large scale requires tremendous amounts of manpower. This leads to a decrease in efficiency as the process becomes highly laborious and expensive.

  • Risk of contamination

The new solution must be non-invasive i.e. wireless so as to maintain the ongoing greenhouse in production.

  • Automating mechanism

The environmental monitoring and the ventilation system are working independently. Thus, in the new solution client wants to realize the automatic control of the motors and fans according to the exact climate parameters.

Considering automation, less maintenance, wireless deployment, bidirectional communication, the LoRaWAN® based solution from Milesight has been submitted by Link Valleys Ltd, which meets all the above needs and more.

 Project

A brief study this year showed a 100% increase in the price of tomatoes in Africa. Greenworld Co. Ltd, a leading agricultural company in Mauritius, has over 4,000 m2 of greenhouses for the production of tomatoes and pepper and provided Link Valleys team with their expertise.

A greenhouse can be defined as a closed structure that is used to protect the plants from external factors such as climatic conditions, pollution, etc. Basic factors affecting plant growth are indoor air quality, sunlight, the water content in the soil, temperature, humidity, etc.

The LoRaWAN® based sensors, controllers and gateway has helped in bringing solutions to many of the existing practical problems over the years. The sensors used here are soil moisture and electrical conductivity sensor and CO2, barometric pressure, temperature, and humidity sensor.

From the data received, the UG65 gateway automatically controls climate parameters efficiently inside the greenhouse by actuating motors, cooling fans, and sliding plastics respectively according to the required conditions of the plants to achieve maximum growth and yield. For example, if the greenhouse temperature is above 30 degrees Celsius and the luminosity of the sun is above 50,000 lux, then a commend will be triggered to close the internal shading of the greenhouse for more scientific environmental monitoring. 

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Figure 1: Deployed Milesight Sensors and Gateway at the Greenhouse

Agriculture Starter Kit

The following Milesight IoT devices were deployed at the sawtooth greenhouse:

Prototype

The prototype our customer used comprises several sensors, gateways, and controllers. Soil moisture sensors (EM500-SMT) are installed at a pole, and their probes are inserted into the soil via a 5-meter cable, and carbon dioxide, temperature, and humidity sensors (EM500-CO2) are installed on the same pole to monitor the air quality. Every 10 minutes, these sensors send their data to the indoor gateway UG65 to analyze the results. The gateway will forward the commend to the UC1114 controllers where motors and fans are remotely connected via digital input and replay output ports. Inside the greenhouse, if the temperature and humidity values are above the reference value, to maintain within the threshold levels, sidewalls plastics will be opened and fans will be switched on.

Figure 2: System Deployment Diagram of Autonomous Greenhouse Project.

Data Management

For the installation process, not many tools were required. The gateway and the sensors were set up prior to the installation date to ensure that everything works as well as to be more efficient.

Upon confirmation of the order, with the help of Greenworld, the sensors were installed at the appropriate places in the greenhouse to ensure that the data was as accurate as possible and to avoid any false values that might occur.

Regular updates can be viewed from a cloud application or mobile app (Milesight IoT Cloud), and controllers can be directly activated over the internet with the click of a button on the dashboard. This is done with the aid of the Milesight IoT Cloud application.

Figure 3. Showing the current value in real-time – The client can see the current value easier.

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Figure 4. Line Charts- This makes it easier to monitor the trends.

Milesight cloud makes it easy to make graphs which are very useful in terms of comparison of data. For example, for the soil sensor, if the electronic conductivity starts to drop below 1500, this means that the irrigation has a problem. There might be a small power cut that might reset the current program of the irrigation or a blown fuse of the pump that might have caused this problem.

Until now, the client is mostly satisfied with the system. Having the ability to realize the environmental monitoring on the phone is a major advantage in terms of knowing the plant health using the soil sensor which provides critical information on the root health and in terms of diagnostic of problems.

Benefits

The result of this project is an easier and more efficient means of managing plant growth and a means of enhancing food production. With the aid of the LoRaWAN® solution, anyone can access a high yield of farming and therefore be self-sustainable in the aspect of food production.

  • Non-invasive solution

A farm with greenhouses located on a large property, where the LoRaWAN® solution would be perfect for its big range covering and data sharing in the same environmental monitoring network.

  • High flexibility and low maintenance

The battery-powered sensors have done away with a lot of the repetitive work with high accuracy, and they can be added or moved anytime anywhere with no worries about cable and electricity.

  • Minimum human interference

The plants are kept at optimum temperature, humidity, light, and soil moisture levels with little or no input from the user, which reduced the amount of labor in the farm.

Why Milesight

Due to a lack of innovative solutions and lack of PoC, especially in the agriculture sector, Link Valleys Ltd contacted Milesight to inquire about agriculture solutions. The initial sample testing was done by the Link Valleys team before they recommend Milesight to end-users. During the testing, the Link Valleys team was deeply impressed by the professional support services offered by Milesight company.

“We were first pleased with the quality of the devices and upon installation, we had a minor sync problem which was resolved the following day by the support team,” said Rughooputh Deepak, Managing Director. “ Till now, the system worked flawlessly and the automation of the greenhouse was successful. We are both satisfied with the product quality, price, and support that we get from Milesight.”

Link Valleys Ltd

Link Valleys Ltd is a Mauritian-based LoRaWAN IoT integration company delivering private and public LoRaWAN solutions supported by devices and applications. Our enterprise-grade solutions use global open standard technologies to drive greater innovation and value for our customers.