SmartIrrigation’s Beetle Box helps to optimise water use in hydroponic raspberry plantations

Raspberries are grown in many parts of the world with annual production estimated at 411,000 tonnes [1]. This temperature sensitive fruit has historically been produced in the cooler northern-European countries. However, this trend is changing since raspberry production is increasing in warmer climates countries such as Spain or Portugal thanks to year-round productions in greenhouses.

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Madre Fruta is an organisation of horticultural producers from the Algarve Region, in Portugal. Created in 1996, Madre Fruta works with 32 raspberry, blackberry and strawberry producers, helping them in their production processes as well as dealing with the sales, packaging and conservation of the produce once it is harvested.

One of the major benefits of growing berries hydroponically in a greenhouse as Madre Fruta does, aside from the magnificent taste, is that they can be grown lifted off the ground. This has proven to be a great benefit to commercial growers as the picking rate is much faster, less labour-intensive and the cultivation of the plants is easier in general.

The business challenge

With the objective of knowing the substrate moisture levels in the pots in real time, Madre Fruta deployed an integrated sensor network to gather information about their plants and to control irrigation treatments more precisely. There was a need to include sensors in some representative pots in order to “see and feel” which amount of water was staying in the pots and consequently what amount was being leached out and wasted.

Being able to control irrigation could allow Madre Fruta to optimise water levels in pots maintaining the desired level of humidity at all times. These were the initial conditions that the Star2Earth team found, and as far as Madre Fruta was concerned, none of the solutions available on the market gave the possibility of having very frequent readings (every minute)- a fundamental requirement they needed to be met.

The Solution

The Beetle SmartIrrigation boxes offered by Star2Earth were the solution chosen to solve this problem.

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The solution deployed included 10 sensors installed in different pots located in the greenhouse. These sensors provided periodic measurements of electrical conductivity and soil moisture, which could be seen, analysed and even downloaded from the AQUA user Interface for advanced use.

Beetle models are plugged into the electrical mains and therefore can take measurements very intensely (up to 60 measurements per hour). These probes are specifically designed for hydroponic agriculture and other cultivations where timeliness and accuracy are fundamental.

The Smartirrigation solution was seamlessly integrated into Madre Fruta’s daily procedures, since information can be accessed from any device with a web browser, such as a tablet or a mobile phone.

The AQUA user interface also allows users to configure alarms and reports that use SMS or e-mails to inform the growers of any anomalies detected, as compare to the expected irrigation patterns.

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Key benefits

  • Irrigation water flow was adjusted to the plants’ real time needs.
  • The system contributed to increasing crop yields while optimizing consumption of water.
  • The SmartIrrigation web-based soil moisture information service was seamlessly integrated into Madre Fruta’s normal work procedures.

 

If you’d like to know more about the Beetle Box or any of our other models, please head over to the SmartIrrigation product description in our website here!

[1] White, John. Year-round raspberry production [online]. Practical Hydroponics and Greenhouses, No. 130, Apr 2013: 17-19. Availability here. ISSN: 1321-8727. [cited 21 May 14].
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