Sensor based Automatic Irrigation System
Kenya’s population is on the raise and this call for an increase in food production. However, rain fed agriculture is becoming unreliable due to the unpredictable weather patterns we are currently experiencing. Therefore, there is need to increase the acreage under irrigation so as to meet our food demand and become a food secure nation. Sadly, Kenya is classified as a water scarce nation with most of its land mass falling under arid and semi-arid region category. Thus, the available water resource needs to be properly utilized without wastage. The situation currently is contrary to the ideal case. The little water available for irrigation is massively wasted through inefficient irrigation methods such as overhead and furrow irrigation. Besides, irrigation is a labor intensive process since it is carried out on daily basis until maturity of crops. This leads to increase in cost of production for crops produced by irrigation. There exists a need for development of appropriate technology for automation of irrigation with capability of precisely delivering the right amount of water to crops. This will reduce both the cost of producing food by irrigation and minimize water wastage and enhance more land will be put under irrigation.
A team of technologist from Meru University of Science and Technology (MUST) has developed an automatic irrigation system that uses soil moisture sensors to detect when the soil is dry so that the system can channel water to crops and when enough water has been delivered the system shuts the water supply. A farmer can also operate the system remotely by sending sms messages to the system to initiate appropriate response such as turn on water pump and open a specified water valve so that water can be channel to a specified portion of land or close a previously open valve and open a different one so that water can be channeled to a different portion of land. The preferred mode of irrigation is by drip lines where land is subdivided into different parts and water is channel to each part through an automated water valve which feeds the laid down drip lines. The system, besides reducing water wastage also significantly saves on labor cost since there is no need to engage a farm attendant to man the irrigation process on day to day basis. In case something is wrong, for example water cannot be delivered to the crops yet the soil is dry, the farmer receives an alert sms from the system notifying him of the problem so that he can organize to attend to the problem.
The system is in proto-type form. It has been tested in the university farm and exhibited in a number of forums such as Commission of University Education (CUE) annual exhibitions, National Council of Science, Technology and Innovations (NACOSTI) annual science week, Meru annual ASK shows, USAID feed the future innovation engine challenge (2014) among others. The system was ranked as the best innovation in the country in water resource management and was given a cash award of Ksh 1 million as seed money for development of functional proto-type – final version of the prototype before mass production and marketing.
Automatic Hand Washing Tap.
It has been noted that public hand washing places are often unhygienic. Frequent users turning on and off a tap can easily contaminate it and hence lead to spreading of harmful germs from one person to another. Contactless taps are a preserve of high profile buildings due to their prohibitive costs. We have developed a simple but efficient and low cost automatic tap for hand washing ideal for schools, hospitals and hotels. The system is fitted with proximity sensors to detect a person approaching the tap and automatically release the water. After washing the hands and withdrawing from the tap, the system cuts the water supply. Besides offering a hygienic mode of washing hands, the system also curbs water wastage incurred when taps are left running. The system has low power demands and can be powered by mains electricity, solar, or battery. Existing water taps can easily be automated by incorporation of minimal changes.