Research indicates that 90% of India’s fresh water extracted from groundwater is used for agriculture and 54% of the country faces an extremely high water-stress (when the demand for water exceeds the available amount during a certain period), underlining the need for a system to efficiently use the sparse natural resource.
With this aim, a trial with Smart Control of Rural Renewable Energy and Storage (SCORRES) model, developed by scientists at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, was carried out in Buddha garden in Auroville.
The cloud-based micro-irrigation system was combined with localised weather forecasts and other inputs from the farmers were used to create an effective irrigation system.
Martin Scherfler from Auroville Consulting, who oversees the project, said that they worked closely with farmers to devise this system.
“We factored the local irrigation practices – the amount of water required for the crop type, the consumption during the crop’s lifecycle and factor in the weather forecasting and local climatic conditions.
The result – imagine a micro controller in the field, which switches on and off, depending on the irrigation requirement, based on a schedule developed in collusion with the farmer, in addition to recommendations from theoretical water balancing models,” Scherfler said.
He added that the project removes the need for costly hardware, and creates a more affordable, cloud-based solution for smart irrigation. Eight vegetables – lady’s fingers, lettuce, basil, basella, pumpkin, corn, rocket and long beans – have been grown with little use of water and energy.
Professor Eddie Owens, director of Heriot-Watt University’s Energy Academy and leader of the SCORRES project, said, “Our irrigation system reduced water and energy use by up to 80%, and in some of the trials the crop yield doubled, enabling farmers to grow bigger vegetables and fruits, faster.”