The inception of intelligent control circuits that interface process monitoring systems with ubiquitous mobile based applications has proved to be effective in the management of industrial processes. Such benefits promise to be valuable in the hydroponic farming, and provide a low cost solution for the management of hydroponic farm environment.
Hydroponic farming is a mean of precision agriculture where plants are grown in mineral nutrient solution instead of soil. This type of farming became relevant in South Africa, since it offers a controlled environment, making urban farming a more practicable mean of agriculture.
An Assistive Environment for Hydroponic Farming system aimed at monitoring the farm environment was proposed and developed as a project under Fraunhofer AICOS Information and Communication Technologies for Development Competence Centre (ICT4DCC). The objective of the Assistive Environment for Hydroponic Farming has been to monitor the environmental variables in the hydroponic farm, and provide the farmer with alerts on any parameters that may deviate from the required range for the optimal growth of the plants. However, just providing the farmers with notifications on any anomalies in the hydroponic farm still requires the farmer to physically go to the farm and make the rectifications on the alerts. This still remains cumbersome for the farmers who will still have to do other chores on farm management. So, the effective management of hydroponic farming requires constant monitoring and control of inside and outside parameters: temperature, humidity, turbidity of the nutrients solution, watering, among others. Such system requires the use of a reliable sensor/actuator networks spread along several farms, each with approximately 10.000 square meters, where an undelivered message could lead to the destruction of an entire greenhouse production. Hydroponic greenhouse sensors and actuators, as well as, monitoring and control solution, already exist in the market, however, are too complex and expensive to be applied in the South African context.
Following this premise, the objective of this thesis was to develop a robust sensor and actuator network suitable to be deployed on the South Africa greenhouses, and with them, build a sustainable (low power and low cost) and reliable monitor and control system for hydroponic greenhouses on the South African context.
Author: João Lima
Type: MSc thesis
Partner: Faculdade de Engenharia da Universidade do Porto