Development of an automatic irrigation and fertilization system
FP7 of the European Commission
01.12.2011 – 01.12.2013
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Nowadays farmers have to adapt quickly to changing circumstances such as market prices, unstable precipitation schemes or new environmental legislation. Especially the present and upcoming changes in different European climate patterns will increase the need for reliable and sustainable irrigation and fertilization technologies in many European countries. Longer dry periods increase the risk of volatile harvests and the need for irrigation. Therefore, the market for irrigation systems in Europe is increasing quickly.
More than 9 million farmers in Europe irrigate an area of more than 188.000km² using different irrigation systems – 4,5 % of the whole EU territory. Over the past ten years the use of irrigation systems rose approximately 9.5% per year and this trend is expected to continue. According to EUROSTAT, it is expected that over the next 10 years more than 700.000 sprinkler systems and 1.200.000 drip irrigation systems will be sold in Europe. Most of these irrigation systems are inefficient and none of them is demand-driven or based on a feedback system.
As a result, valuable water resources are wasted and fertilizer is washed out reducing the cost-efficiency of crop production and leading to environmental damages such as eutrophication. Against this situation, the proposing SMEs intend to take an integrated and more proactive approach to the problem. The vast amount of water and fertilizer which is used per hectare every year can be reduced and, in this way, a more efficient, competitive and sustainable agriculture production in Europe is possible. The main objective of the OPTIFERT project will be the development and implementation of a demand driven and fully automatic and combined irrigation and fertilization system in order to enable farmers to monitor and control their water and fertilizer consumption.
The proposed system will allow a one-step tailor-made supply with fertilizer and water specific for each crop`s needs. The planned system will supply water and nutrients based on the need of the specific crop in real time. The given amount of water and fertilizer will be measured and calculated based on a mix of different data. The processed data will include data from an innovative soil sensor system (pH, moisture, salinity, fertilizer concentration) and meteorological, crop physiology and market data as well.
The OPTIFERT system will consist of a combined soil sensor-data processor-dosage system which includes a monitoring, control and distribution unit which enables the dosing, mixing and distribution of water and fertilizer. By combining the needed irrigation with a just-in-time fertilization (so called fertigation) the planned system will bring additional benefits to the clients. Being able to count on an efficient loop orientated irrigation and fertilization technology would significantly help European farmers to respond to the upcoming climate and economic changes.
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