Project Name: Beishao Triticale Field Project
Deployment Location: Dingzhou, China
Targeted Industry Type: Agriculture
Project Partner(s): , Beishao Collective Share Cooperative
We might all agree that the COVID-19 pandemic has permeated all levels of society, and the majority of us became dependent on digital technology more than ever (Kremer, 2020). However, not everyone has accessible tools to be not left behind in this era of constant transformation. For example, in traditional industries like agriculture, smallholder farmers’ livelihoods have deteriorated as a result of not having access to high tech resources, not to mention various socioeconomic impacts of COVID-19. In the same vein, the World Economic Forum emphasizes the adoption of digital agriculture, through which the farmers can gain useful data for revolutionizing the management of their farmlands (Figure 1). Therefore, it is critical to create a resilient and sustainable agriculture landscape and livelihoods for farmers and agricultural practitioners. (Quayson et al, 2020).
Figure 1. Functions of IIoT Solution in Agriculture (Goyal, 2019)
What’s the Challenge?
How to automate the traditional outdoor agriculture sector so that local farmers are socially included in digitalization?
What’s the Project About?
In 2019, Seeed partnered with “Beishao Collective Share Cooperative” and a Beijing-based system integrator for agriculture, with the purpose of deploying smart agriculture solutions in a triticale field of Dingzhou City in Northern China’s Hebei Province (Figure 2). The IoT solution consists of the following: an auto-irrigation system, a video/image monitoring system, a remote-control data platform, and an environmental data monitoring system, which collects 12 different environmental factors that affect the growth of triticale: soil pH, soil electrical conductivity (EC), soil moisture (VWC), soil temperature, wind speed, wind direction, light intensity, rainfall volume, photosynthetically active radiation (PAR), barometric pressure, air temperature, and air humidity.
Figure 2. A Triticale Field in Beishao Village of Dingzhou City
Located in the North China Plain, the small city of Dingzhou has a strong focus on agriculture, with the gross agricultural production surpassing 50% of the city’s total output value. Recently, the local government and farmers in Beishao Village in Dingzhou formed the co-op, to collectively invest in a crop with higher economic benefits. They chose triticale, a cross-breed of wheat (Triticum) and rye (Secale), to be cultivated in Beishao Village’s collective fields with the area size of 1258 mu (83.87 hectare). In China, the wholesale price for triticale is 8 RMB/kg, while the normal wheat costs 2.4 RMB/kg, with the yield per mu (0.067 hectare) at 400kg and 500kg respectively. This means farmers can earn an extra of 2000 RMB per mu when growing triticale. Because on-field agricultural cultivation requires a lot of time and manpower, the co-op was looking for tech partners to acquire resource-efficiency, environmental traceability, and sustainable applications of IoT at a pilot triticale field. This is how Seeed became the tech partner for this Beishao Triticale Field Project, by providing our SenseCAP LoRaWAN sensors and gateway (Figure 3).
Figure 3. SenseCAP Deployment in the Triticale Field of Beishao Village
So, here’s how our IoT solution works. SenseCAP LoRaWAN sensors collect data of the 12 different elements, and the collected data is transferred to the Cloud Server through a gateway. Afterwards, integrated and processed data will be displayed in a web platform (Figure 4 & 5).
Figure 4. System Deployment Diagram of Beishao Triticale Field Project
Figure 5. Environmental Monitoring and Data Display Platform of Beishao Triticale Field Project
For instance, when the soil moisture level is lower than its preset value, a water pump will be triggered to irrigate automatically. In fact, the farmers can also simply click a button on the web platform to turn the water switch on or off. This example highlights a smart irrigation system installed in the triticale field of Beishao Village to save labor costs and water resources. Likewise, farmers are able to get better insights on field-related events, like the most suitable time for pest control and harvest season, through the data collected by the sensors and images/videos captured by HD cameras (Figure 6). This enables the farmers to manage their triticale fields more precisely by grasping the crop’s conditions and needs with less labor inputs. In the end, they will be able to have higher yields.
Figure 6. Video Screenshot of a HD Camera in Beishao Triticale Field
For this Project, the following SenseCAP LoRaWAN gateway and sensors were deployed:
- SenseCAP Outdoor Gateway – LoRaWAN
- SenseCAP Wireless Soil pH Sensor – LoRaWAN
- SenseCAP Wireless Soil Temperature, VWC & EC Sensor – LoRaWAN
- SenseCAP Wireless Wind Speed Sensor – LoRaWAN
- SenseCAP Wireless Wind Direction Sensor – LoRaWAN
- SenseCAP Wireless Light Intensity Sensor – LoRaWAN
- SenseCAP Wireless Rain Gauge – LoRaWAN
- SenseCAP Wireless PAR Sensor – LoRaWAN
- SenseCAP Wireless Barometric Pressure Sensor – LoRaWAN
- SenseCAP Wireless Air Temperature and Humidity Sensor – LoRaWAN
After the IoT Application was fully set up to put into action, the farmers of Beishao Village gave us the following feedback, which seems to have satisfied their needs:
“It’s really helpful to have this solution. It helps reduce manpower and improve efficiency. Now, we do not need to go to the water pump locations to turn them on and off manually. So convenient!”
By April 2020, our SenseCAP LoRaWAN devices were deployed in Beishao for 1 year. It has been told that they survived great temperature differences between the summer and winter, as well as between the day and night of Dingzhou (the highest temperature being 39℃, while the lowest being -15℃) (Figure 7). The survival was possible since the SenseCAP series is well-encapsulated in a robust IP66 enclosure, making it perfect for remote sensing scenarios outdoors regardless of weather conditions, like Smart Agriculture, and other countless IoT application possibilities that need low-power, long-distance, and long-term data collection features.
Figure 7. Temperature Differences Between Day and Night in Dingzhou
Moreover, Beishao Collective Share Cooperative has been active on domestic social media platforms, such as Tik Tok, WeChat and Toutiao, to promote its local food produce: grains, flour, and noodles made from triticale. For these social media platforms, data, images, and videos collected from our IoT solution help customers to understand triticale’s cultivation environment. This will, in turn, strengthen the customers’ trust on the brand, help popularize the triticale products made in Beishao, and inspire other industry players to adopt precision agriculture habits for sustainability (Figure 8).
Figure 8.SenseCAP Devices in the Triticale Field of Beishao Village in April 2020
Which SDGs Are Relevant?
Through deploying the SenseCAP IIoT solutions, Beishao Triticale Field Project pursues to achieve the following SDGs (Figure 9):
Figure 9. 12 SDGs Relevant to Beishao Triticale Field Project (UN, 2016)
When we examine the SDGs’ Targets, it is possible to oversee critical implications of Beishao Triticale Field Project, such as impacts of digitally transforming the traditional agriculture industry on sustainable development:
- Curtail poverty level in different dimensions by ensuring resilient livelihoods and resource mobilization from various sources (Targets 1.2, 1.5 & 1.A)
- Increase incomes and agricultural productivity of small-scale farmers by giving access to technological knowledge and other resources for sustainable agriculture (Target 2.3, 2.4, 2.A)
- Reinforce capacity building for managing and preventing national and global health risks (Target 3.D)
- Ensure that more adults and young people are provided with vocational and technological skills (Target 4.4)
- Augment water-efficiency in all industries and execute integrated water resource management through cooperation (Targets 6.4 & 6.5)
- Increase energy efficiency (Target 7.3)
- Achieve higher economic productivity and resource efficiency via diversifying and technologically up-scaling in labor-intensive sectors (Targets 8.2 & 8.4)
- Provide inclusive and resilient infrastructure, which can be accessed and afforded by all for sustainable industrialization (Targets 9.1 & 9.2)
- Advance retrofit industries with eco-friendly technologies (Target 9.4)
- Gradually increase income growth of the most vulnerable population groups, and facilitate their self-empowerment in socio-economic and political dimensions (Target 10.1, 10.2 & 10.3)
- Decrease the number of vulnerable people’s economic losses directly influenced by force-majeure situations (Target 11.5)
- Execute sustainable production and increase natural resource efficiency (Targets 12.1, 12.2 & 12.A)
- Promote science, technology, and innovation through cooperation of various actors (Targets 17.6, 17.7, 17.8 & 17.16)
Finally, yet importantly, before we apply IIoT solutions to traditional agriculture projects like today’s case, we need to holistically consider all sorts of imaginable and unimaginable project implications, in particular, negative externalities that could happen in the worst cases. Such a deep reflection and simulation process should be done by involving all the stakeholders of the project in design, so that we can develop less environmentally, socially, and economically damaging projects. Join the tides of sustainable waves that are already here, and prepare for a bigger sustainability boom. You all know that the early bird catches the worm, right? 😉