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ClimateMinder Monitors Conditions at Farms, Greenhouses, Warehouses

The wireless sensor system, already in use in Turkey, is being introduced in the United States, where a strawberry grower will soon deploy it to monitor temperature and fertilizer levels.
By Claire Swedberg
Sep 22, 2009Norcal Harvesting, a strawberry grower in Oxnard, Calif., is installing a wireless sensor system that will enable it to track the conditions of its plants in real time. The company will be able to see the data on a Web portal, and to design the system to automatically trigger such actions as watering or changing the temperature, based on the conditions of the air and soil in which the plants grow.

The system was developed by ClimateMinder. Initially a U.S.-based firm, ClimateMinder has been operating in Turkey under the name Kodalfa for the past two years. Kodalfa is now returning to the United States, in partnership with mobile solutions company Partners 1993, which is taking a minority stake in ClimateMinder, with investments in the form of cash and software-development services.

A ClimateMinder wireless sensor node (attached to a pole) measures environmental conditions at a greenhouse in Turkey.

The technology was developed to help growers better manage the conditions of their crops, says Bulut Ersavas, the CEO of ClimateMinder and Kodalfa, and has been in use by approximately 200 greenhouses in Turkey since the company's 2007 launch. The system has also been installed at a Turkish poultry farm, a tobacco storage facility and cold-storage warehouses. In addition, Ersavas says, his company is investigating the possibility of providing the system to golf courses, in order to help them track the amount of watering that has been done, as well as whether the greens have been adequately irrigated.

Norcal Harvesting's wireless sensor network will be installed by GreenArch, a California-based agriculture solutions company, says Mike Almasri, the company's product manager. "With the agriculture industry, our mission is to think outside of the box," he says, adding that GreenArch offers environmentally sustainable solutions that could, for instance, reduce the water consumption for growers in water-scarce parts of the country, like California.

When Almasri discovered the ClimateMinder solution, he says, he took the technology to the University of California at Davis—where he is presently working on his Ph.D. degree—and experimented with the nodes and central reading unit in a university greenhouse. "The system performed very well," Almasri says. As a result, GreenArch is deploying the system this month for Norcal Harvesting, and intends to install it in several California greenhouses in the coming months.

Norcal will monitor the amount of salt in the soil (to assess the fertilizer level) by using electric conductivity sensors, as well as measuring the soil's water content. The company is initially deploying the system in two fields, Almasri says; assuming the success of that deployment, it plans to expand to the rest of its fields as well.

The technology features nodes that contain 2.4 GHz active RFID tags complying with the 802.15.4 ZigBee standard. Each tag can beacon its unique ID number, as well as sensor data, at any pre-set rate, at a distance of up to 250 meters (820 feet). The tag transmission is picked up and forwarded by other tags in the vicinity, then is routed to a central reader unit that captures the ID numbers of the nodes, sensor data and date and time, and transmits that information to ClimateMinder's Web-based server via a GPRS cellular connection. End users can input a user name and password to access a Web site that displays real-time data regarding the conditions of the particular fields or greenhouses they are monitoring.

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