Poverty alleviation has been one of the top priorities in China’s modern social development. In order to help farmers increase income and improve living conditions, the Chinese government encourages farmers to grow fruits or crops that have higher economic yields.

While fruits that have always been grown in the southern regions, such as lemon, wax apple, dragon fruit, and papaya, have earned increasing popularity in the north, their prices are also relatively higher in the northern markets. Thus farmers in the north can earn higher income if they grow the southern produce rather than the usual northern fruits or crops.

In this case, farmers in Laiwu in Shandong Province embrace the initiative of “growing southern fruits in the north,” in the National Smart Agriculture Industrial Park located in the county.

(Greenhouses in the Smart Agriculture Industrial Park in Laiwu, Shandong Province)

While the farmers were experimenting growing wax apples in one greenhouse at the Industrial Park, they came across some obstacles:

  • The greenhouse environment needs to be strictly monitored and controlled to simulate the environment in the south, or the fruit quality would be compromised.
  • The management cost is high. A system to automatically control the fertilizer, ventilation, thermal and irrigation system is in need.

Seeed was more than happy to take part in this project at the invitation from our partner Kebai Sciences Inc., a Beijing-based system integrator for agriculture. By deploying SenseCAP in the greenhouse, the following environmental data was collected and monitored in real-time:

  • CO2
  • Light intensity
  • Soil temperature
  • Soil moisture
  • Soil electrical conductivity
  • Photosynthetically active radiation

The data was collected via LoRa Sensor Nodes and sent to the cloud via the LoRa Gateway.

(SenseCAP System Architecture)

While Seeed SenseCAP provides the wireless sensor network solution to collect and monitor environmental data, Kebai integrates SenseCAP solution with the controlling system to achieve the following goals:

  • Automatically fertilize and irrigate the plants: When SenseCAP detects deficiency (lower than the preset value) in soil moisture or fertilizer, it triggers the fertilizing and irrigation systems to fertilize and water.
  • Automatically turn on the ventilation system: SenseCAP is connected to the ventilation system, which is activated to cool the greenhouse when the temperature is detected to be higher than the preset value for desired growth.
  • Automatically manage the thermal blanket: The greenhouse thermal blanket helps to retain 95% of the radiant heat and minimizes condensation by containing air, moisture, and vapor in the greenhouse. When SenseCAP is connected to the control system of the thermal blanket, the system can be triggered to fold or unfold the blanket based on the environmental data.

The agriculture sensors and gateways deployed in the greenhouse include the followings:

This is the pilot run of IoT application in “southern fruits grown in the north” scenario, and we are happy that Seeed SenseCAP plays a role in contributing to this initiative. It could gradually collect and accumulate important data for farming experts to provide evaluation for smart agriculture and precision farming, which will eventually further benefit farmers.

“Working with Seeed has been a great pleasure. It’s really useful to introduce SenseCAP, the industrial sensor network solution to our smart agriculture park, as it shows us precise data and helps our existing system to perform automatically. This creates a much better growing environment for the wax apples. We have had a lot of support from the Seeed technical team”

comments Han, Greenhouse Project Expert at Kebai.

With SenseCAP deployed in the greenhouse in April of 2019, we received a package of freshly-harvested wax apples from the farmers in August. The wax apples actually tasted sweeter than those grown in the south, thanks to the longer daylength (higher light intensity) in the north during summertime.

This project also helps contribute to the following Sustainable Development Goals.

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