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Unless you have been living under a rock, you will know that IoT is a network of devices that transmits data within a platform for enabling automated control and efficient communication. In simple words, IoT connects machines to machines and people to machines. It mainly connects digital to the physical. That is the beauty of this technology.
The seamless connection between machines, data, and humans means IoT simplifies, improvises, and automates processes. IoT sensors, coupled with AI and connectivity, can make several systems and gadgets more robust. IoT minimizes costs in areas historically impossible.
IoT in the fertilizer industry: An introduction
The global population is estimated to reach 10 billion by 2050, leading to a surge in demand for food. A large portion of our food is produced through agriculture. The practice has some adverse effects on the environment; hence, there is much focus on increasing yield and producing better crops to meet the growing demand.
Come to think of it - agriculture is essential. It is a sector that produces food for human beings and animals. It is also the backbone of many powerful economies such as the US, India, and China. No wonder, there is a need for modernizing agriculture using smart technologies.
In agriculture, fertilizer supply and irrigation are critical processes that support crop production. While we will not specifically discuss irrigation in this article, we will look at the importance of fertilizers. They are widely used in agriculture to supply nutrients and minerals to produce high-quality output.
Macronutrients, micronutrients, and secondary nutrients are the primary elements needed by plants. But they cannot get all the requisite nourishment from the existing atmosphere. Therefore, the fertilizer industry provides plants with enough nutrients externally.
The drawback of adding these fertilizers is that they sometimes release harmful chemical substances into the environment. Innovative technology like IoT brings considerable improvements to traditional agriculture practices. Farmers are now automating their daily tasks with IoT solutions for agriculture.
A sensor-based computerized water system framework with a manure tank gives a promising answer for overseeing rural action. They can now control the amount and quality of fertilizers added to the soil. It helps improve yield and crop quality and reduces the long-term negative impact of pesticides and fertilizers on the environment.
Types of pollution in the fertilizer industry
Global pollution is the most serious concern and needs to be addressed to ensure the health of all living beings. According to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), the fertilizer industry falls into the red category and is among the highly polluting sectors. Water, soil, and air pollution control is necessary to minimize fertilizer effluent disposal.
Ammonia and other corrosive substances are released from fertilizers. According to the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), drinking water containing ammonia or any corrosive substances beyond the permissible limit is harmful for consumption.
However, it has been reported that the level of ammonia in the groundwater samples exceeds the permissible limit in several places across the globe, especially in proximity to the fertilizer industry. NO, N2O, and NO2 emissions from prilling towers at the urea or fertilizer factories cause air pollution.
Providing powerful nutrients to plants also causes nutrient pollution, known as eutrophication. Nitrogen and phosphorus dissolve in the water and form thick layers of algae and seagrass which destroy the natural composition of the water by depleting oxygen levels.
The discharge of the fertilizer industry contains urea dust, carbon, and nitrogen oxide, which affects the human respiratory system as well as the productivity of the crops. To avoid environmental pollution, one must also properly manage solid waste from fertilizer factories.
What is pollution prevention?
Fertilizers may seem harmless but contribute to nutrient pollution if used beyond permissible limits. Traditionally, farmers use fertilizers without knowledge of the actual soil condition. Their decision is based on intuition and experience.
Thus, it may result in overuse of the fertilizers, leading to nutrient pollution and eutrophication. It leads to hypoxia and also impacts aquatic life.
Nutrient pollution can be prevented using the right fertilizers and in the proper quantity. As irrigation also plays a significant role in agriculture, water pollution control is another crucial aspect. IoT technology can help prevent the water pollution caused by fertilizers.
Modern farming and smarter systems help minimize nutrient pollution. It involves monitoring the use of fertilizers needed for the specific variety of soil or crop.
IoT sensors also assist in monitoring temperature, humidity, pest infestation, and the health of crops. With the information gathered using the IoT systems, farmers can easily keep track of the fertilizers being used and control their quantity.
Critical IoT applications in fertilizer pollution control
Would you not agree with us when we say how many IoT smart solutions are solving current global problems? For instance, Amazon, Unilever and Microsoft have signed up for “The Climate Pledge,” which aims to meet zero net carbon emissions by 2040.
Extreme weather events such as floods and wildfires have contributed heavily to the initiative. Companies across the globe are investing considerable amounts in IoT-based energy and resource management to make this happen.
Moreover, governments are working hard to reduce fossil fuel consumption and trigger smart grids and smart city investments. So how can IoT leave behind agriculture? IoT helps maximize production while reducing nutrient pollution. Key applications of IoT to prevent pollution caused by fertilizers are:
Fertigation refers to the use of fertilizers during the drip irrigation process. It helps in the even distribution of fertilizers in the soil. It is an efficient process, as nutrients are readily available for the plants. Both liquid and water-soluble fertilizers can be administered through this technique. It raises fertilizer usage efficiency from 80% to 90%.
2. Smart agriculture
It utilizes modern procedures, information, and communications to strengthen, monitor, regulate, or improve agricultural processes and activities. For instance, sensors gather critical information like weather, soil condition, temperature, and humidity.
3. Smart irrigation
Smart irrigation is an IoT application that regulates and efficiently uses water for farming. This system initiates the water flow when the soil reaches a specific dryness level.
It also supports the supply regarding moisture and stops the water flow. This reduces unnecessary water wastage. Sensors in smart irrigation devices provide details of soil chemistry and fertilizer profiles. Temperature, moisture, CO2 and acidity levels contribute to how good a harvest turns out to be.
4. Livestock tracking
This involves using RFID chips to track an animal’s vitals, location, and vaccination details. For instance, sensors identify sick animals, enabling farmers to separate the sick animals from the herd and avoid contamination.
Drones also come in extremely handy for real-time cattle tracking, which invariably reduces farmers' staffing expenses. The same IoT technology also works well for pet care.
Smart IoT solutions for fertilizer pollution control
New IoT Connected devices and technologies are constantly being proposed and implemented to meet the current pollution problems in agriculture and fertilizer use globally. Here are the top IoT systems and gadgets being deployed to minimize the problem of pollution in fertilizers:
1. Node MCU (ESP8266 Board)
The ESP8266 WiFi chip is the main component of the NodeMCU development board. Espressif Systems is a low-cost TCP/IP WiFi chip, also known as ESP8266. For the ESP8266 WiFi chip, the open-source NodeMCU LUA-based firmware was created.
The ESP8266 development board, also known as the NodeMCU Development Board, is included with the NodeMCU firmware to explore ESP8266 chip functionality. It has every necessary modern computer component, such as a CPU, RAM, networking (WiFi), and even a state-of-the-art operating system and SDK.
It can be made to work on its own or alongside a microcontroller like Arduino. The NodeMCU Dev Kit's board has analog (A0) and digital (D0-D8) pins comparable to Arduino's.
It is an NPN transistor. When the base stick is held at the ground, the gatherer and producer remain open (reverse one-sided), and when the base stick is given a flag, they close.
The transistor BC547 has an intensification limit determined by its pickup estimation, which ranges from 110 to 800. 100mA is the maximum amount of current that could ever flow through the collector stick.
3. Solenoid valve
An instrument that transforms electrical energy into mechanical energy is a solenoid. This arrangement, which comprises a coil looped over conductive material, functions as an electromagnet and is used for flow control.
An electromagnet has the benefit over a natural magnet in that it may be activated or deactivated as needed by energizing the coil. Since the current-carrying conductor is a coil, the magnetic field surrounding it is strong enough to magnetize the material and produce a linear motion when the coil is energized per Faraday's law.
4. DC voltage booster
One of the most basic types of switch-mode converters is the boost converter, often known as the step-up converter. The converter boosts an input voltage, as its name implies.
In other words, it acts like a step-up transformer by increasing the level of DC voltage from low to high while decreasing the current from high to low while maintaining the same amount of provided power.
A capacitor, a diode, an inductor, and a semiconductor switch are their only components. Because they were initially created and developed in the 1960s to power electronics on aircraft, boost converters are fairly straightforward and only need a small number of components.
A boost converter's biggest benefit is its extremely high efficiency. Some boost converters have an efficiency level of up to 99%. That indicates that only 1% of the power is lost due to the input voltage.
5. Zero PCB
Zero PCB, sometimes referred to as Perfboard or DOT PCB, is essentially a general-purpose printed circuit board (PCB). It is a sheet of thin, inflexible copper with pre-drilled holes at 2.54mm (0.1 inches) intervals over a grid.
A circular or square copper pad surrounds each hole, so that component leads can be placed and soldered around them without short-circuiting other leads or surrounding pads. Put the components' leads together or link them with a suitable conducting wire to form a connection.
Electronic components known as resistors have a predetermined, constant electrical resistance. The resistance of a resistor restricts how easily electrons can pass through a circuit.
Because they are passive components, they can only use energy—not produce it. In circuits, resistors are typically introduced to balance active parts like op-amps, microcontrollers, and other integrated circuits. Resistors frequently pull up I/O lines, divide voltages, and limit current.
7. DFRobot Gravity
The DHT22 (or its sibling, the DHT11) is a digital relative humidity and temperature sensor for gathering weather data. It measures the ambient air using a thermistor and a capacitive humidity sensor and outputs a digital signal on the data pin - no analog input pins are needed.
The sensor can operate between -40°C and +80°C with an accuracy of +/- 0.5°C for temperature and +/- 2% for relative humidity. It should be powered between 3.3V and 5V. It is also crucial to remember that its detection period is typically two seconds - minimum time between readings.
8. SparkFun Soil Moisture Sensor
Two probes make up the soil moisture sensor, which measures the volumetric content of water. The soil is passed through the two probes, providing the resistance value needed to calculate the soil's moisture content.
There will be less resistance when more water is in the soil because the latter will conduct electricity more readily. As a result, there will be more moisture present.
However, there will be more resistance since dry soil conducts electricity poorly. There will also be less electrical conductivity in the soil when there is less water. The moisture content will consequently be decreased.
9. Grove Relay
Grove Relay, a digital switch, controls a relay that can switch voltages and currents significantly higher than those supported by typical Arduino boards.
As soon as the relay is turned on, the LED will light up, allowing the current to flow - 250V at 10A is the highest voltage permitted. Through it, a high-voltage circuit can be controlled using a low voltage, such as 5V on the controller.
When the regulated terminals are closed, an indication LED on the board will turn on. It is a switch that uses electricity to work. Grove Relay is employed in regulating situations. It has a particular low-power signal.
10. Arduino Uno
Arduino created the open-source Arduino Uno microcontroller board. It is built around the microcontroller from Microchip, the ATmega328P. The term "stock Arduino" refers to one of the most well-liked Arduino development boards.
It is a tiny development board with dimensions of 2.7 inches X 2.1 inches. Arduino Uno is very compatible with both hardware and software. Despite having fewer pins than the Arduino Mega, this board has sets of digital and analog input/output (I/O) pins.
Uno is ideal for small development projects and prototyping. Engineers and students use it for project creation because of its functionality and low cost.
IoT-Enabled Green Technology: Benefits, Use Cases, Challenges
What is the next step in the pollution control process?
Maintaining soil fertility for different crops throughout the year has been a major challenge for the agriculture industry. Traditionally, a sprinkler system is used for fertilizing the soil, but with technological advancement, farmers are realizing the drip irrigation method is more efficient.
It allows them to control fertilizer usage and also maximizes crop yield. Another important system that helps in the pollution control process is the Efficient Method, which predicts the crop yield and determines the correct quantity of fertilizers.
It aids in getting the maximum production from the same crop while reducing pollution. The black propagation algorithms, which are a part of the process, help calculate the amount of phosphorus and nitrogen needed for the land of the specified region.
You can also go for segmented IoT processes where, in manual mode, the user specifies the fertilizer-to-water ratio. When needed, the farmer can switch to the “Auto” mode. The plant's name is used to determine the fertilizer and water ratio.
Based on the plant's identity, the amount of fertilizer and water are automatically determined in “Smart” mode. The crop data, atmospheric temperature, and moisture levels are shared with the farmers in real time. It helps monitor the field remotely and make decisions in time to prevent major damage to the crop.
Over to you
IoT is the new-age solution to minimize nutrient pollution caused by fertilizers. With IoT-based sensors and gadgets, farmers can get precise information to maximize yield, cut production expenses, and avoid excessive fertilizer pollution.
Moreover, the IoT platform also monitors humidity, water content, pH value, temperature, chlorophyll content, and light intensity to ensure optimal growth conditions for every specific crop. IoT minimizes the risk of poor soil and crop health in the long run.
Guess what? Now is the age to build smart farms and equip farmers with insights with AI-based equipment. Are you looking for a talented partner to envision and create a connected and smart device? Book a consultation with IntuThings experts now.