Sunday, May 26, 2024

IoT enables Iloilo lettuce farm to increase output by 4X

A locally-developed smart greenhouse hydroponics project in Iloilo now benefits a farm enterprise. The project applies the Internet of Things (IoT) technology to automate the monitoring and control of growth parameters for lettuce grown in a nutrient-film-technique (NFT) hydroponics system.

The ISAT U and Ephrathah Farms research team composed of (L-R): Hilario S. Taberna Jr. (project staff), Ed Roderick V. Cañuto (general manager, Ephrathah Farms, Inc.); Vanessa Mae D. Supapo (project assistant) and Dr. Renerio S. Mucas (project leader) posing on the lettuce produced during the try-out of the developed smart management system for hydroponics in a greenhouse

The research team from Iloilo Science and Technology University (ISAT U) led by project leader Dr. Renerio S. Mucas developed the hardware and firmware components and installed and tested them at Ephrathah Farms Inc. in Badiangan, Iloilo City.

“I am beyond satisfied with the system now,” said Ed Roderick V. Canuto, farm manager of Ephrathah Farms, Inc. He used to visit the farm on early Sunday mornings to handle the tedious work that his farm attendant is doing on weekdays. Now he just needs his mobile phone to check his greenhouse even in the middle of the night.

“I don’t need to go to the farm to decide whether to turn on or not the water-cooling system. Everything is controlled with my fingertips. Information is there. During the first run of our production under the automated system, I was surprised having the best production I ever had. I had 250g per lettuce head, I used to be happy with only 60g per head of lettuce. Monitoring the pH and other growth parameters and dosing the right amount of nutrients at the right time gave us consistent production yield,” Canuto said.

Ephrathah Farms used to manually record the microclimate and agronomic parameters essential for lettuce’s growth. Results tend to be inconsistent leading to variable production yields.

According to Canuto, the smart greenhouse minimized labor and made it less tedious for him and his attendant.

ISAT U developed smart management system, consisting of hardware component with associated firmware, capable of controlling and maintaining desired water parameters necessary for lettuce growth and production

The technology is a product of the recently completed project funded through the Science for Change Program-Collaborative Research and Development to Leverage Philippine Economy (S4CP-CRADLE) of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST). DOST’s Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (DOST-PCAARRD) monitored the project.

During the virtual project terminal review organized by DOST-PCAARRD, Mucas highlighted the project’s initiatives and significant accomplishments.

He described the smart greenhouse hydroponics as equipped with sensors and communication technologies that automatically captures data on essential parameters such as temperature, acidity or pH, electrical conductivity (EC), and water flow. The collected data goes through an IoT platform for monitoring, analysis, and control.

Aside from monitoring from a personal computer, the use of Android App enables a farm manager to remotely monitor the system’s status or control specific actuators for water flow, fertigation, and water cooling.

A sensor device set up inside the greenhouse to monitor humidity and temperature conditions

More than this automation, this locally developed control system for smarter greenhouse hydroponics uses low energy requirement and the greenhouse is run and powered by solar energy. Generally, it helps improve efficiency in use of resources and nutrients while optimizing yield gains.

Canuto hopes that some hydroponics farmers will be able to get hold of this technology because he believes that technology automation can really improve the agriculture sector. — Ofelia F. Domingo (DOST-PCAARRD S&T Media Services)

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