By: Lior Doron – Crop Management Technology Director
Growers from around the world use control systems to automatically perform all operations required in their fields, such as irrigation, fertilization, cooling, and temperature and humidity control in the greenhouse. Unfortunately, the adoption of advanced control and monitoring technologies by farmers around the world has been very slow. Studies showed that the one of the main reasons for such low use is that these systems are offering data and not information. So there is a big gap between the data that these monitoring and control systems provide and the ability of farmers to make decisions, and therefore they still have to go to agricultural consultants and water system consultants to decipher the data in their systems to make decisions.
The challenge – moving from data to knowledge and advice
The challenge faced by manufacturers of crop management systems is to move from operational systems that only display data, to systems that provide advice and recommendations based on agronomic knowledge and best practices. In order to implement such a system, it is not enough just to have the technological know-how to develop the actual monitoring and control devices. What is at least as important is the requirement to have deep and holistic agronomical & hydraulic knowledge, including:
- Selection and mapping of the correct type of soil, weather, and irrigation method.
- Proper preparation of the field for planting and proper agro-mechanical maintenance during the growing season and between seasons.
- Proper irrigation and fertilization for the type of crop, taking into consideration the weather conditions, type of soil, availability of water, and additional factors.
- Identification of diseases and quick and early treatment before it spreads.
- Understanding of water and irrigation systems, in order to bring the system to maximum use and reliability.
Netafim uses its extensive agronomic knowledge to develop proactive CMT systems
Based on over 40 years of experience in the irrigation market Netafim has acquired the knowledge required to create such a proactive CMT system that adds a DSS (Decision Support System) layer to offer guidance and advice to the grower.
The following are some applications that show the advantage of Netafim’s use of DSS in control systems:
- Irrigation – simple systems are preprogrammed to irrigate a specific crop in a specific region, according to amounts that prior knowledge of growing this crop have been found to be good for this crop. A more sophisticated system irrigates the plants with an amount of water that takes into account the amount of water that evaporated from the plant on the previous day. And an even more advanced system enables connecting to the local meteorological station, calculating the local ET at the grower’s farm, and figuring out a more exact amount of water that is to be administered to the plant. Netafim DSS systems also take into consideration the weather forecast model and therefore recommend to the farmer irrigation plans that are based on the expected temperature and rain and not only on the past temperature. Such a system does not require the intervention of the farmer, it displays a recommendation for an irrigation plan and transfers it automatically after approval to the control system for operation, thus enabling the farmer to use this powerful control system instead of going for expert advice.
- Identification of problems in the irrigation systems – most control and monitoring systems know to warn on system faults (high flow indicates a burst in the main pipe; low flow on blocked drippers, etc.). However, a grower can also benefit from advanced warning on specific problems. Such warnings require a combination of a number of parameters. Netafim DSS system knows how to make these numerous calculations and warn on malfunctions before they become critical.
- Shared knowledge and best practices – It is very common to have many growers of the same crop in one region, all contending with the same harmful conditions and diseases. Even if individual farmers are not willing to supply information, such as the amount of irrigation per unit area required for a crop in a specific area, development of diseases in their area, and more, statistical information is usually available, and is input into a Netafim control system so that growers can compare their situation to the average and improve their performance.
Shifting to smart systems is the key to improving crop quality and yield
Today it is absolutely clear that the value in CMT systems derives from the combination of agronomic knowledge and automation. It is like having the best consultant from around the world providing advice and then executing it with perfect accuracy. Succeeding in this effort and the development of simple software for smart use, are critical in getting growers to use CMT systems in order to improve their performance and using less water, fertilizer, and insecticide, while improving the amount and quality of their crops.
If you have any questions or requests regarding our CMT offerings, please drop me a line – Lior.Doron@netafim.com
Crop Management Technology Director