Smart Irrigation Month/Smart technologies PAIL supports precision irrigation By R. Andres Ferreyra, PhD; Dan Berne and Charles Hillyer, PhD

Modern farming depends upon data to meet the goals of high yields, efficiency and sustainability. In the case of precision irrigation, numerous software tools exist for deciding when and how much water to apply. However, rarely do these tools interoperate effectively. Data must be moved manually from one application to another, and the burden is on the grower to do the data management.

A nonprofit consortium of 230+ ag businesses, AgGateway’s Precision Ag Irrigation Language [PAIL] project has recently completed a set of data standards for exchanging the field observations data used to create irrigation scheduling plans and for operations of irrigation equipment to execute that plan and record the results. The PAIL data standard defines the structure and format of information

sent and received between two or more devices. Improving the ability to share data among equipment and software tools will reduce users’ effort, increase adoption and lead to greater water-use efficiency through improved accuracy and precision of irrigation management.

The internet of things [IoT] is an emerging technology that can support PAIL’s goals of enabling precision irrigation. The IoT can be thought of as an intelligent system of networks of “nodes” that are self-configurable, based on standards and communication protocols. An important concept is that both real-world physical and virtual objects can have their own identities and attributes. The IoT uses smart objects to observe and respond to real-world, physical changes. For example, measurements of physical properties such

as soil moisture can be combined with a virtual weather forecast and integrated into an irrigation decision support system.

Mesh networks form the backbone of irrigation IoT by providing wireless “nodes” rather than relying on a central point such as a PC or hub network. Mesh networks are self-organizing and scalable by simply adding more “nodes.” An irrigation mesh network could include a compact, solar-powered, wireless system for in-field measurement of soil moisture, temperature and other parameters. Sensor data from each node would be routed through a path automatically set up by the mesh network back to a central point where it can be uploaded to the web or on-site storage and made accessible to any authorized user with an internet-enabled PC or smart device.

IoT solutions go further by adding business value. For example, a vineyard in Melbourne, Australia, used sensors that tracked the water requirements for different grape varieties, displaying the results on an easy-to-read dashboard. Vineyard personnel could see when they were behind in their watering, understand how that would impact production and quality, and take appropriate action.

One of the outcomes of the PAIL project is an agriculture-specific implementation of the ISO 19156 standard for observations and measurements. Adoption of this standard by both IoT companies and traditional irrigation hardware and software technology providers will be a major step in solving growers’ interoperability problems.

A mesh network layout involving eight center pivots in two adjacent fields 24 Irr rrigation OD rigatiion TODAY | July 201 July 2017 Photo credit: Irrometer

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