Problem: Agriculture in Africa faces challenges such as overreliance on rain-fed agriculture, outdated farming technologies and minimal youth inclusion in the sector.
Solution: The Greenhouses sensor is a simple solar powered gadget integrated into modern greenhouses that automate irrigation by allowing to monitor temperature, humidity, soil moisture and most importantly regulate the water supply which is channeled through drip lines and link them up to the farmer’s mobile phone.
Goals and Objectives: The new technology dubbed Smart Mobile Farming to ensure low costs for managing the greenhouse is aimed at conserving water and provision of virtual greenhouse maintenance. The aim of the solution is to help farmers juggle between farming and other chores and at the same time help to keep the water bills low, especially for urban smart farmers.
Implementation: The solution is developed and implemented by Illuminum Greenhouses, Kenya, an Agri-Tech greenhouse and drip installation company in Kenya working with smallholder farmers to improve productivity and increase efficiency through the use of new modern technologies.
Greenhouse farmers can now monitor temperature and soil conditions while far away thanks to an automated sensor gadget that communicates about the greenhouse conditions to the farmer through their mobile phones. They can be able to open and close their irrigation system as well as query and get alerts on their current greenhouse status i.e Temperature, Humidity and Soil Moisture content via SMS. This can be done from anywhere and any time of day just by sending a simple SMS to their greenhouse. This means that a farmer doesn’t require to be available to monitor their greenhouse and execute the action as the sensor gadgets identify the problem and fix it.
The greenhouse automation system works by measuring and monitoring specific conditions needed for optimum growth of plants. This is done by electronic sensors that continuously monitor these set parameters and if exceeded rectifies the situation and notifies the farmer via an SMS alert. This data collected by the sensors is also dynamically updated to an online server for analyses to provide information such as graphs e.g temperature against time. These graphs are stored for up to a year so as to assist the farmer to plan for the next season as he/she will be able to know which months have the appropriate optimum conditions for growth.
This system is powered by solar panels thus green and can work in rural areas where electricity is a challenge. It has an 18Watt Solar panel and a battery which is charged by the panel during the day and then provides the system with the required power during the night. The battery can go for 5 days without any charge making it a very durable system.
Achievements: So far, Illuminum Greenhouses has built about 1,200 greenhouses across East Africa, with 5,500 Smallholder farmers using their technology (€7500).
Budget: The automated system currently goes for Ksh. 35,600 due to the high costs of electronic components and assembly here in Kenya. It is expected that these devices will be fabricated soon in bulk and retail as low as Ksh. 15,000 (USD150) to make it affordable to all smallholder farmers. Installation charges are only Ksh. 2,300(USD23). However, the system is designed to be very easy to install from the box to enable anyone to install. This shall be the cost of a complete system comprising of the Main Unit, Watergate valve, temperature sensor, humidity sensor, and soil moisture sensor.
Also, the system shall be based on the number of sensors a farmer acquires with the very basic system consisting of the Main Unit, a water gate valve and a soil moisture sensor costing only Ksh.8,900.(USD 89).
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