Optimizing Crop Yield With IoT

For a recent hackathon, a group of strangers (now friends!) created Crop Squares — a system designed to optimize crop yield by better tracking weather and soil conditions.

The event was hosted in Madrid called Future Hacks Internet of Things Edition, with the goal to build disruptive IoT solutions to help change the world. In 54 hours.

The concept behind crop squares is to make a graphical user interface using Dizmo that clearly shows the status of your crops in a grid system. For the prototype they used an Arduino Pro Mini with moisture sensors in potted plants to detect moisture levels, while a Raspberry Pi also collected weather data for the area being watched. The Arduino used an ESP8266 WiFi module to transmit the data remotely. To demonstrate how the system could be used in an automated sense, they hooked up another Arduino (this time a Leonardo), to pour water once the moisture levels dropped below a certain threshold.

Crop Squares won the Best Pitch Award as well as the Best Integration of Dizmo — good job guys!

Speaking of moisture sensors — did you know you can build your own using some plaster of paris and nails?

9 thoughts on “Optimizing Crop Yield With IoT

  1. I would have expected the industry is already way ahead of measuring soil moisture and add some water… In hydroponic systems, aren’t there already fully automated nutrition-water-controllers that measure and regulate the temperature, the Ph-value and add fertilizer based on the conductivity of the solution?
    An in order to measure crop growth and development, would they not need to add at least a scale below the pot and/or have a camera mounted to track how much the plant is/was growing over time?
    Shure is a fun project for a little hackathon to set up a such a simple control loop system, but its hardly a “Future Hack” when the market already offers such a solution, is it?

  2. OP here. The project aims to optimize the irrigation of crop fields, which by nature are not hydroponic. Simply put, the idea is to use as little water as possible, with a special focus on developing countries. Adding cameras would add complexity and rise the price of the solution. Im not sure its benefits would outweight the cost, as it not only has to be cost-effective but inexpensive. Answering your last statement: AFAWK there are no solutions that could be 3D printed and assembled using cheap parts such as the plaster probes that James mention, which is the whole point of the project. Maybe we should have put more emphasis on that on the README, will update soon.

    1. you are right, this is expensive nonsense. for soil based systems there are plenty of passive and cheap ways to maintain optimum soil moisture. they are not viable on an agricultural scale due to costs. adding complexity and more costs isn’t an improvement, its a stupid thing that could only be promoted at a know-nothing hack-a-thon. but that is the usual outcome at these events. Followed by some probability of additional exposure and potentially funding by other know nothings. strange world.

  3. Interesting project, it may not be commercially useful at the moment but there are many types of farming and crop conditions, and the more research into sensor and automation systems the better.

  4. Five years ago I worked at a start up in the south plains (west Texas and the panhandle) that developed remote irrigation sensors to help growers make better water usage decisions. It was an eye opening experience since I had always thought I would end up working on high tech projects with lases and rocket engines and what not and yet found myself in cotton fields and corn fields.

    I learned this. Farmers mostly know what they are doing without the aid of technology. Though they are mostly dismissed by mainstream society the actual growers who make the decisions have thousands of year of experience to go off of and if they weren’t good at what they do we would have no civilization at all.

    Second. Inserting technology into their economic projections is difficult because literally on a global scale mother nature is involved. Monsoon in India wipes out an entire crop for the year? West Texas cotton prices go through the roof.
    El nino brings rain to an normally poor growing area? Prices drop because of oversupply and you barely break even on expenses.
    Drought hits your area? You take a half million dollar loss and have to be bailed out by your insurance.

    Technology cannot save you from these problems. In closed cell environments like greenhouses or in space maybe but tight margins and the fact that you are dealing with the most powerful force of nature (nature itself) means adding costs to the process will not be welcomed with open arms.

    We learned this lesson the hard way and we had about $10 million to start with.

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