Intelligent Irrigation Systems to Address Water Scarcity

There have been discussions on water scarcity for quite a few decades. For example, in 1989 The New York Times published a science-backed article on how water scarcity is posing a threat to global food supplies. And yet today, more than 30 years later, we face an ever-growing population and a world dependent on irrigated land for food supply.

Many regions of the world today face a serious water problem and much research has been done on how it affects the livelihood of people. The Water Scarcity Atlas provides an interactive map showing the global population living in water scarcity. The Water Scarcity Clock explains us the very same problem with numbers.

IRRIOT, the company we are covering in this piece has aimed to address this issue because, as it stands on their website, “70 percent of the total volume of water withdrawals in the world are used for irrigation, and that’s precisely where most of the water waste happens, either due to evapotranspiration, land runoff, or simply inefficient, primitive usage methods.” According to IRRIOT, by 2025, two-thirds of the worlds’s population may be facing water shortages and we need a faster transition and better preparedness.

There are a handful of countries currently under extremely high water stress, meaning they are using almost all the water they have. Climate change heightens the problem. Water supply is becoming less and less reliable due to erratic rainfalls. And when days are hotter, more water evaporates even though that’s when land and people need it the most. A lot can and has to be done, however, to improve water management. Better water distribution systems have to be built and farming has to be built upon an economical use of water. Wastewater should be recycled and rain should be harvested. There are now smart and smarter irrigation systems, too. And IRRIOT set the aim of developing irrigation systems further.

Founded in 2017, IRRIOT is a Swedish innovation company that is a leader in wireless smart irrigation solutions. The solution is an Internet of Things or IoT-based system that offers mobility and affordability to customers in agriculture.

The solution includes ultra-long-range radio communication and solar-powered irrigation stations. IRRIOT has a full scale industrial irrigation controller, IoT cloud, intelligence, and alarms and weather forecast via mobile and web apps.

At the heart of IRRIOT is precision irrigation, which allows achieving the maximum crop yields at the lowest possible water consumption. A central computer controls the irrigation by magnetic valves, knowing when to open and shut the water. IRRIOT uses Long Range radio communication to eliminate all the expensive and not so environmentally friendly in-field wiring. The solar powered watering stations are also sustainable and maintenance-free.

The main innovation IRRIOT offers is two-way wireless communication between the sensors and the computer up to a distance of 2-3 km in urban environments and 5-10 km in rural areas. The controller is an IoT device connected to Microsoft Azure IoT Hub. Different types of sensors are available, monitoring for example rainfall, soil moisture, temperature, flow and pressure. IRRIOT plans to expand smart irrigation to include integrated and automated fertilization via the IRRIOT Base Unit.

Using the latest telecommunications technology (LoRa), IoT, high-precision sensors and cloud technology, IRRIOT provides a platform that ensures optimal soil conditions by intelligently determining the water supply for a specific area of land. The company claims that with IRRIOT’s wireless precision irrigation system, farmers can actually reduce water consumption by 50% and increase yields by 30%, which in turn helps them significantly reduce their carbon footprint.

Andrea Nyilas is a Life Cycle Assessment and Sustainability Consultant and a Sustainability and Environmental journalist. She holds a Master of Science degree in Environmental Sciences and Policy from Central European University, in addition to a Master of Arts degree in Economics from the Corvinus University of Budapest. She is particularly interested in circular economy, natural resource management, and waste reduction.