In a small county in Shandong Province, northern China, the government encourages local farmers to grow southern fruits (lemon, wax apple, sugar cane, dragon fruit, passion fruit, papaya, etc.) in huge orchards. As southern fruits are really popular in the northern market, which could bring much more economic income than other crops (weather especially the low air and soil humidity in the north helps fruits grow in a higher sweetness), the farmers are more than happy to follow the policy to grow fruits instead of crops.

The greenhouse in the Smart Agriculture Industrial Park in Laiwu

Due to the huge difference in weather, a greenhouse is a must for growing southern fruits in the north. And how to get accurate and real-time environment data in the greenhouse, and even use the data to guide the practice of farming has concerned the local growers. Since IoT technologies have been emerging and developing for smart agriculture for several years, the local government is also attempting to build up demonstration bases for smart agriculture where technologies are applied to different modern framing scenarios.

Greenhouse Managers at the wax apple plantation

Smart Agriculture Industrial Park in Laiwu city, Shandong is one of these demonstration bases. It’s a 20000-acre greenhouse with a focus in growing southern fruits in the north, developed by one of Seeed’s partners Kebai Science Inc, a leading smart agriculture solution provider. It has been equipped with some advanced smart systems including an integrated fertilizer & irrigation system, a greenhouse vent controlling system and a greenhouse thermal blanket system controlled by smart agriculture algorithm.

To complete the data collecting part of the whole ecosystem, Kebai invited us to deploy a SenseCAP wireless sensing network at a greenhouse wax apple plantation in the park to help fruit growers monitor the growing environment of the plants and know which is the best moment for ventilating, irrigating, insulating or fertilizing.

The deployment of SenseCAP at the wax apple plantation

On April 25th, 2019, two of our product application engineers arrived in the plantation after a long flight and a long drive, with the SenseCAP gateway and 6 different SenseCAP sensors. As the hardware involved in the solution are designed for ready-to-use, it took only 1 hour to deploy sensors in the plantation, which gave engineers more time to focus on how to integrate the SenseCAP solution to the exiting Kebai Smart Agriculture system.

The goals of the integration include:

  • Connect the SenseCAP to the integrated fertilizer & irrigation system: when the SenseCAP detects a fertilizer or humidity deficiency, it could trigger the switch of the automatic fertilizer & irrigation system to fertilize and water the plants;
  • Connect to the greenhouse vent controlling system: the vent controlling system will be active to cool the greenhouse when the sensors detect the temperature is too high for the growth;
  • Connect to the greenhouse thermal blanket system: the greenhouse thermal blanket could help build up air, moisture, and vapor barrier, retains 95% of the radiant heat and minimizes condensation. It could be much effective if the system could be automatically triggered by the data collected by SenseCAP;

The SenseCAP sensor network looks for easy access to the data and the integration with the existing systems, providing precise production and management indicators to farmers. The sensor nodes deployed in the greenhouse collects real-time environment data that may have an effect on the growth of the wax apple, including air temperature and humidity, CO2, light, soil temperature, and humidity, soil conductivity, photosynthetically active radiation. The nodes communicate with the gateway via LoRa network and send measurement data to the cloud platform through 4G. The SenseCAP gateway is located at a corner of the wax apple plantation. For data visualization, it has a web platform with dashboard, developed on Microsoft Azure IoT by Kebai.

“Working with Seeed has been, a great pleasure. It’s really useful to introduce an industrial sensing network to our smart agriculture park, as it shows us precise data, and it also helps our existing system to perform automatically a much better growing environment for the crops and plants. We have had a lot of support and thanks to their technical team we have solved issues that directly impacted the project,” comments Han, Greenhouse Project Expert at Kebai.

Our engineer Kevin (right) demonstrates the data collected to Han, the Greenhouse Project Expert at Kebai

The application in the wax apple plantation highlights our ready-to-go hardware that could be applied to a much comprehensive IoT smart agriculture system. Although it’s pilot run for “southern fruits grown in the north” scenario, it could generate and collect important tons of farming data, which could be an accurate processing source data for our smart agriculture algorithm and a comparing sample for farmers. Meanwhile, we’ll keep upgrading the sensing network based on the on-site testing. Let’s stay tuned.

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