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Wide Rollout of IoT Soil-Moisture Sensors in the Works

Sensoterra is employing Kerlink's reference design to build LoRaWAN sensors that can be provided to farmers, horticulturists and landscapers with a real-time soil-moisture managing system to reduce water consumption, chemical needs, fuel and labor.
By Claire Swedberg
Jul 10, 2019

Soil-moisture solutions company Sensoterra is ramping up its LoRaWAN-based technology sales by partnering with Internet of Things (IoT) company Kerlink. By using the Kerlink reference design in its wireless sensors, Sensoterra intends to provide wireless soil-moisture sensors faster, and in larger numbers, than before, and to make them available globally. Sensoterra already has approximately 5,000 sensors installed at its customers' fields across 22 countries, but it needed the ability to scale up quickly since several large customers are preparing for wide-scale rollouts, says Christine Fraser-Boer, Sensoterra's chief operating officer,

Sensoterra makes its own sensor and gateway hardware, and also offers software to manage sensor data, but it will now use the reference design from Kerlink to make it possible to quickly build LoRaWAN sensors for customers located anywhere around the world. The sensor company is using its existing moisture sensors, plastic housing and printed circuit boards; leveraging circuitry from the Kerlink reference design to make new circuit boards; and optimizing and improving the antenna. The use of the Kerlink reference design, Fraser-Boer says, "helps provide us with a faster to-to-market strategy," thereby enabling customers to have fully mature solutions in their hands at a faster rate.

Sensoterra's wireless soil-moisture sensor
Amsterdam-based Sensoterra is a two-and-a-half-year-old company that focuses on soil moisture intelligence. Its wireless sensors, staked into soil, utilize LoRaWAN connectivity to send readings about the moisture levels in that soil to a gateway, as well as to its hosted server, via 4G or another available network. The company's software manages that data and can provide real-time alerts and historical data for analytics purposes.

Sensoterra initially offered its solutions on a business-to-business basis, Fraser-Boer says, with its systems used in the industrial and agriculture markets. However, the global nature of its customers, which are based in Europe, North America and Asia, as well as the multiple use cases involved, required some customization of the sensors. LoRaWAN frequency requirements vary from the European Union (863 to 870 or 433 MHz) to the United States (902 to 928 MHz). Kerlink's reference design can accommodate all of those frequencies, according to Guillaume Boisgontier, the company's manager of innovative products and solutions marketing.

"Kerlink allows us to program our software for use with the same base product," Fraser-Boer states, no matter where it will be used around the globe. When it comes to applications, Sensorterra's sensors are employed in several ways. In the horticulture market, companies can use them to track soil-moisture levels around trees to enable better irrigation decisions, thereby reducing the need to over-water. This, on the other hand, ensures that sufficient water is applied.

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