Collins Niwagaba, a postgraduate student at Uganda Technology and Management University (UTAMU) has developed a hybrid irrigation system that could potentially change farmer fortunes amidst unpredictable weather patterns.
This intelligent control system aptly named Intelligator uses several sensors, a micro-controller and other devices to monitor the garden so as to autonomously determine, when it is appropriate to irrigate the farmland. The innovation comes at the time when farmers in the country have been hit hard by the long term droughts and irregular rainfall seasons.
According to Niwagaba, the Intelligator is able to autonomously open and close the necessary valves to control water flow to the necessary plots (within the garden), collect and send data from each individual garden to the cloud (online server) - from which a farmer can receive real-time updates about his/her garden regardless of the geographical location.
“This irrigation solution aims to improve livelihoods of rural communities through sustainable agricultural practices especially irrigation.” said Niwagaba.
Worldwide, application of water and its management has been an essential factor in raising agricultural productivity and ensuring predictability in outputs. Water is essential to bring forth the potential of the land and to enable improved varieties of plants to make full use of other yield-enhancing production factors.
By raising productivity, sustainable water management (especially when combined with adequate soil husbandry) helps to ensure better production both for direct consumption and for commercial disposal.
Niwagaba says the hybrid irrigator is a merge of solar powered pumps (for ground water), drip irrigation structure and an intelligent control system. By combining solar-powered irrigation with an intelligent control system; small scale farmers would be able boost their productivity and enhance crop resilience.
“This system is able to detect soil moisture (water) levels as well as temperature/humidity, detect water reservoir levels, inform the farmer in-case of inadequacy via SMS and can also pump water either from ground or surface water sources into the reservoir,” said Niwagaba.
Niwagaba says the innovation has the potential to grow quite rapidly as long as he can establish relationships with locals in need of irrigation services. The target market of this innovation are the local medium scale farmers and research firms, institutions, scientists and any other individuals in need of agricultural data.