Tag: agriculture

Enhancing Landscape Sustainability with Soil Sensors

Landscapes are integral in any ecosystem for many reasons: beautification, environmental purification, noise reduction, and improved quality of life. On a more practical level, landscaping is also expensive–both in execution and upkeep. As more and more businesses strive to reduce their carbon footprint, the landscaping industry has pioneered many innovative and sustainable changes.  Despite landscaping relying solely on resources that are not infinite, the commercial landscaping industry has generated innovations in irrigation, fertilizer, and drainage systems to make landscaping more eco-friendly. Among these inventions are soil sensors. Even if your landscaping operations have energy renewing and sustainable practices, adding soil sensors to the mix will only magnify the durability and preservation efforts of your landscaping management.

While soil sensors are a relatively new product to grace agricultural markets, soil probes have quickly proven their effectiveness in cost and resource efficiency. Once inserted into the soil, most soil probes measure moisture levels, salinity, ambient temperature, and light levels. This data is transmitted to a cell phone or desktop and allows for adjustments to be made in irrigation practices. In landscaping, soil sensors have been found to reduce water usage, promote healthy plant growth, and can help combat the damages from climate changes. A 2012 study done by the General Services Administration found that soil sensors can reduce upwards of 40% of water waste. Not only do soil sensors conserve resource expenditure in landscapes, but they also promote comprehensive sustainability in landscaping management.

In addition to conserving water usage, it is also worth noting that soil sensors are incredibly accessible and user-friendly. Compared to the setup required for irrigation systems, soil sensors are much easier to install and understand. Soil probes are also fairly affordable and work in tandem with whatever irrigation system your landscaping employs. From a business perspective, soil sensors also differentiate landscaping companies from their competitors and encourage continuous savings and conservation for customers. Simply put, soil sensors are likely the future of sustainability in landscaping. With soil sensors, landscapes appear greener and wallets are able to stay green with lifelong savings and resource efficiency.

A Christmas Gift Guide for the Farmer in Your Life

As the holiday season draws closer, you may already be thinking about what to buy for your friends, family, and loved ones. Of course, when adding things into your shopping cart, it’s only logical to throw something in there for yourself as well. But better yet, why not get something that treats yourself as well as your farm. In an occupation that constantly challenges farmers with fickle weather, limited resources, and long hours it is more important than ever to work smarter, not harder. Here are 5 must-have agri-tech items that both you and your farm will be happy to have under your Christmas tree this year.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
  1. Rechargeable Headlamp

As sunlight becomes more and more rare in winter months and you find yourself running a farm at 6 a.m. in the dark, allow me to introduce you to your new best friend. A rechargeable headlamp is a simple and affordable way to make your life easier whether you’re getting a head start to the day or fixing a last minute problem at night. Rechargeable headlamps allow you to operate hands free while illuminating everything in your path. Best of all: no batteries are required. Simply plug your headlamp into an outlet along with your cell phone before you hit the hay. 

Photo from Steelmantools.com
  1. Drone

Nowadays, drones are not just used by military members and instagram influencers; they have quickly become an invaluable gadget in farming. Agricultural drones provide an aerial view of your crops, allowing for closer monitoring of your farm in a faster and less exhaustive way. Although drones are on the pricier side, investing in one, especially if you have a large farm, will save you time, energy, and resources for years to come.

Photo from Droneusainc.com
  1. Soil Sensor

If you’re looking for an item that will make a big impact on a tight budget, a soil sensor is the product for you. Soil probes gather data below the soil and provide information on your crops that are hard to measure and see. Generally, soil sensors measure moisture levels, salinity, ambient temperature, and light levels. With a soil sensor, you can save time, money, and resources by understanding your plant’s needs and having valuable data sent straight to your smartphone or desktop. Although some soil sensors are on the pricey side, our sensors use a low-frequency measuring technique that allows us to produce sensors at a considerably lower cost.

  1. Self-driving Tractor

This is arguably the most expensive item on the list and the gift least likely to fit under a Christmas tree. Despite the high price tag and perhaps your reluctance to go for anything that can drive itself, self-driving tractors seem to be the future of farming. Unlike self-driving cars, self-driving tractors are incredible low risk and can help farmers expand their farming capabilities. With a self-driving tractor, you can let a machine do all or part of your work while you track its progress via GPS. 

Photo from the-iot.co.uk
  1. Tile Key Tracker

Although this item is not exclusively for farmers, a key tile tracker is an excellent and affordable gift for the forgetful farmer in your life. Tile bluetooth trackers attach to any set of keys and allow you to locate the missing item in seconds through sound technology. Finding a set of keys on an expansive farm can be a lot like looking for a needle in a haystack. With a tile tracker, locating your lost keys on the job will no longer be a calamitous ordeal.

Photo from Digitaltrends.com

2020 has been a great year for tech in agriculture. The items above reflect the innovations of the past year at various price points. Whether you’re shopping for yourself or your favorite farmer, hopefully these gadgets help make life a little easier and the holidays a little merrier.

The Tech Your Timed Irrigation Systems Are Missing

Drip irrigation systems are beloved by many for their ability to conserve water and simplify the irrigation process. While drip systems certainly beat out other irrigation systems in terms of water conservation, did you know you could actually be saving even more water in timed irrigation with soil sensors? Soil probes work in tandem with your timed systems but are able to retrieve data based on your crops’ relationship to climate and irrigation patterns. In short, all irrigation systems require a bit of approximation in set-up and irrigating. Soil sensors take the guesswork out of timed irrigation systems and will leave your plants more nourished and your water source less exerted. 

When inserted near crops, soil sensors are able to see below the soil and send data to your smartphone or desktop. Drip irrigation provides a steady source of direct water but cannot account for your crops evolving needs, especially when considering changes in climate and sunlight levels. Soil probes help you better understand your plants in ways a timed irrigation system cannot. When paired together, you can adjust your irrigation to meet the changes in your crops as they grow.

Soil sensors measure soil moisture levels, soil salinity, light, and ambient temperature. In other words, with soil sensors, you will receive detailed information on if your crops need more/less water, if your soil needs more fertilizer, if your plants are experiencing any stress, if water is evaporating too quickly from the soil, and if your crops are getting enough sunlight. These are all indicators that drip irrigation cannot measure but can benefit greatly from knowing.

Timed irrigation systems are superheroes for streamlining the irrigation process. Think of soil sensors as your systems’ trusty sidekick–able to account for the crops your irrigation system oversees and make adjustments when necessary. Together, drip irrigation systems and soil probes are a powerful duo, and more than that, they are also an affordable one. Typically, installing a drip irrigation system can cost around $40. While soil sensors can be costly, our soil probes use a low-frequency measuring technique that allows us to produce sensors at a considerably lower price. While you may be hesitant to add yet another gadget to your soil, sensors provide a number of informative benefits. In the long run, sensors will save you money by allowing you to conserve water and reduce long-term wear in drip irrigation systems.

Setting Up A Drip Irrigation System – The Basics

Drip irrigation systems are ideal for farmers looking to conserve water. While this system has promising results, it can be a bit difficult to achieve without the proper set up. There are many drip irrigation kits available to help you set up your own drip system. Whether you already have a kit at hand or are hoping to construct one yourself, this article can help you get started.

Choose the Best Garden Watering Systems - Organic Gardening - MOTHER EARTH  NEWS
Photo by Jerry Pavia in Mother Earth News

Here are the items you will need to set up your own drip system:

  • Pre-punched drip irrigation tubing that is ¼-½ inch thick
  • Drip emitters – plastic device that hooks up to irrigation tubing and releases water droplets into plant
  • Backflow preventer valve 
  • Barbed connectors 
  • Plastic ground stakes
  • Elbow connectors

Once you’ve collected the necessary materials, start laying out rough placements of your tubing and emitters around the area you want to irrigate. Ideally, the drip tubes should weave around the designated area like a picture frame. Each crop should have an emitter nearby that will serve as the crop’s own personal sprinkler. Emitters should be placed between 12-24 inches apart. 

1 & 2 GPH Single Outlet Drip Emitter on Stake (100 Pack) 06-055 - 06-0 —  onestopoutdoor.com
Photo from OneStopOutdoor.com

To ensure that water will flow from your outdoor water source through the drip system, install a backflow preventer valve to your outdoor water line. You may also need a hose adapter to ensure a perfect fit. Once securely attached, connect your main water line to the newly installed backflow preventer valve.

How to Install an Outdoor Faucet | Outdoor remodel, Diy plumbing, Faucet
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Next, you’ll want to return to your tubing placement and attach the tube to your central hose bib. Use barbed connectors to attach your pre-punched tubing and emitters. Then, secure the connected tubing with plastic ground stakes to ensure all your hard work stays in place. 

Photo from GrowOrganic.com

As you repeat these steps over the whole area, the tubing may have to turn at a sharp angle. To avoid damaging the drip system, cut the tubing and reattach it with elbow connectors. This will ensure water flows continuously. Once finished, cut the tubing and leave the end exposed so you can drain it with water later. Drip irrigation systems should be flushed every 4-6 months to avoid water blockage or erosion. Finally, cover the entire tubing area with a few inches of mulch. This will stop water from evaporating before it can reach your crops and conserve water.

Drip Irrigation System Buying Guide
Photo from Lowes.com

Hopefully these steps help you easily set up your drip irrigation system. The entire process should take no more than a few hours and costs under $50. Drip irrigations are affordable to set up and will save you money down the line by maximizing water and plant growth. Most of all, drip irrigation systems are durable when properly maintained and hopefully will continue to save you water for many growing seasons to come.