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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

The systems are also utilized in agriculture for similar irrigation decisions across fields in which everything from soy to strawberries grow. Typically, Sensoterra provides six to ten sensors per 120 acres, as well as a gateway to receive the devices' LoRaWAN transmissions. The sensors can be used more or less densely, depending on the sensitivity and value of the crops being monitored.

Thirdly, the solution is being employed in cities by landscaping businesses. By installing sensors at the gardens and lawns where such companies provide their services, they can view the real-time conditions of the soil and adjust watering accordingly, thus providing their private or public customers with a system that prevents water waste. "Everything the data provides is about making smart decisions and better use of resources," Fraser-Boer says.

Sensoterra's Christine Fraser-Boer
The solution is designed not only to prevent over- or under-watering, but also to reduce additional expenses involving such errors. For instance, more watering requires more fertilizer and pesticide applications, as well as diesel to operate the watering and chemical application—all of which might be unnecessary with better-managed watering. By making sure the soil is sufficiently moist, however, users can ensure the highest yield or healthiest garden.

Once the system is installed, Fraser-Boer reports, a return on investment can typically be accomplished within a single season or growth cycle. The sensors are designed with an average battery life of three years. In outdoor applications, however, the sensors may be removed during off-seasons.

All Sensoterra sensors transmit data via LoRaWAN to the gateway, which transfers a packet of data about the moisture sensor readings, linked to the unique ID number of each sensor, to the cloud-based software. "We process the data in the cloud," Fraser-Boer explains, and her company then provides an app for workers to access on a smartphone or tablet, along with a portal to view the dashboard. If conditions require watering or the cessation of watering, an alert can be issued to authorized parties. Additionally, the data can be viewed on a dashboard so workers can better understand conditions and the corresponding health of plant grown in the soil.

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