398979 Digital Farming for Small Scale Agricultural Applications

Monday, November 17, 2014
Galleria Exhibit Hall (Hilton Atlanta)
Rémon Goulbourne and Yanique Dickson, University of Technology, Jamaica, Kingston, Jamaica

This project aims to investigate the use of technology based solutions for farmers and gardeners aimed at improving agricultural production with sustanable practices.

The automation and use of sensors in agriculture is a relatively new field and is mainly used in large scale applications.  Small farmers are not currently able to use much technology in their farming practices due to the costs associated with sensors, microcontrollers and other associated infrastructure. 

Several established companies provide solutions for gardeners to automate watering of their crops.  Communication over the internet and through SMS technology is also widely available and is utilized in both large scale greenhouse farming and some gardening applications.

A suite of technology solutions are needed for the typically small to medium farm.  These include but are not limited to: water usage/storage, soil moisture, air humidity, temperature, pH and alkalinity.

The ultimate aim is to improve the management of agricultural resources in small landholdings and particularly rural areas.  Due to climate change, there are projected decreases in rainfall and lengthening of drought periods in some tropical countries like Jamaica.  Additionally, projected global population increases will require significantly higher agricultural output than is possible today.  It is therefore imperative for small farmers to be more efficient in the management of their crops and resources such as water.  Technology will be a great asset in this regard.  Cost is a major inhibitor in the aim to increase the use of technology in farming however.  This project therefore aims to demonstrate the possibility of utilizing technology to realize more sustanable farming and gardening.

Through the use of low cost microcontrollers, communication infrastructure and sensors as well as renewable energy, rural farmers will be able to monitor and control their assets in a cost effective and environmentally friendly way.

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