Water is vital for ensuring food security to the world’s population, and agriculture is the biggest consumer amounting for 70% of freshwater. The water wastages are caused mainly by leakages in distribution and irrigation systems, and in the field application methods. The most common technique, surface irrigation wastes a high percentage of the water by wetting areas where no plants benefit from it. Localized irrigation can use water more efficiently and effectively, avoiding both under-irrigation and over-irrigation. However, in an attempt to avoid under-irrigation, farmers feed more water than is needed resulting not only to productivity losses, but also water is wasted. Therefore, technology should be developed and deployed for sensing the level of water needed by the plantation and for flowing the water to places where and when needed. The SWAMP project addresses these issues by use of the Internet of Things (IoT), data analytics, autonomous devices and other related technologies.
The challenges addressed by SWAMP project are following:
1) Reducing effort in software development for IoT-based smart applications;
2) Automating advanced platforms and integrating different technologies and components;
3) The integration of heterogeneous and advanced sensors, particularly flying sensors (drones) providing precision in the water supply for irrigation;
4) The use of a Software Platform together with technologies such as IoT, Big Data, Cloud/Fog and drones for the deployment of pilot applications for smart water management;
5) Proposing, testing and validating new business models for using IoT in smart water management settings;
6) Technological components must be flexible and adaptable enough in order to adapt to different contexts and to be replicable to different locations and contexts.
The SWAMP project will develop a high-precision smart irrigation system concept for agriculture depicted in Figure 1. The main idea is to enable the optimisations of irrigation, water distribution and consumption based on a holistic analysis that collects information from all aspects of the system including even the natural water cycle and the cumulated knowledge related to growing particular plants. It results to savings to all parties as it detects all the leakages and losses and guarantees better the availability of water in situations where water supply is limited.
Figure 1. Precision irrigation based on smart water management
As depicted by Figure 1, we identify three broad phases in a water management system for agriculture:
W1: Water reserve: water reserves coming from different sources such as rivers, lakes, dams, and aquifers, which follow the natural water cycle.
W2: Water distribution: water is transported from W1 to the final usage place (W3) through a network of elements such as canals, pipes, pumps, valves, gateways and monitoring devices. SWAMP will provide solutions for W2. Water distribution may assume different configurations depending on the region or country but there is always the need for moving water from reserve to the field. On the one hand, sometimes water resources are carefully used and controlled by a central authority, like in many Italian locations, where consortia managed a network of water distribution canals. On the other hand, sometimes W1, W2 and W3 belong to the same property and therefore are fully integrated, remarkably in many Brazilian agriculture areas. In the latter case, W2 is much simpler but still requires careful management.
W3: Water consumption: in agriculture, one of the key uses of water is irrigation, which can be performed by different techniques.
The SWAMP platform will provide mechanisms for data acquisition from heterogeneous sensors, decision making using a variety of different techniques and changing system behaviour by sending commands to actuators. For Water Consumption (W3) the SWAMP platform will provide real time responses for adapting irrigation as the environment conditions changes. On the other hand, as changes in water distribution are performed in a different timescale, the management loop for W2 will be longer. Also, and not less important, is the integration of W2 and W3 management systems, as water usage triggers water distribution.