Irrigation 2.0: iDus Controls reveals irrigation’s second generation: farmer (and environment) friendly devices.
According to the World Resources Institute, agricultural water use accounted for 12 per cent of total water consumption in Canada in 2000. Irrigation made up 85 per cent of that total. The Conference Board of Canada says that water use in agriculture is “particularly inefficient,” returning less than 30 per cent of water consumption. Therefore, agriculture represents the largest consumer of water in the country.
The key is to be responsible about water use in this sector, says Ron Hartman. Seizing the opportunity, he and his team at British Columbia-based iDUS Controls have developed a “farmer-friendly” approach to traditional irrigation.
A sensor-driven algorithm that would optimize irrigation efficiency led to the team’s G-Tech Irrigation 2.0 concept, wherein solar-powered smart controls monitor local environmental and soil conditions to decide when to water, and how much is needed. The system would link directly to conventional irrigation pumps and values to achieve maximum efficiency.
That’s how the iDUS G-100 was born. Hartman’s team worked with farmers to develop a versatile soil moisture sensor and to create a simple interface that farmers can control and set. “The farmer knows what he wants. Why don’t we let him do it?” says Hartman. Additionally, since the unit is solar-powered, Hartman notes, there’s no extra power or zone cabling involved.
The unit’s sensors gather and distill feedback that helps farmers make more informed decisions about their watering regime. As a result, the unit helps make consumption more efficient, but also leaves farmers free to farm. “Automation helps—it allows farmers to save time and energy,” says Hartman.
He says access to this type of technology gives smaller and mid-sized farms the potential for revitalization—and because the technology can be made available at consumer-level cost, there are great opportunities for use in the developing world.
So far, the G-100 has been pilot tested at a prominent Okanagan vineyard. Community gardens are also showing interest, since the product provides a solution for gardeners who can’t always spend much time monitoring the variables. “As we grow, we’re discovering more and more applications,” says Hartman.
While he can’t say too much about plans for the future, Hartman intimates that the team is working on improving crop yields and linking them to the irrigation system. “Our corporate motto is ‘let’s change the way water is used in North America.’ We’re looking to make a big impact. —Kerry Freek