Water shortages are occurring with more frequency and across greater areas of the planet. Large arable crop operations, as well as fruit, vegetable and viticulture exploitations, must manage their water resources and irrigation systems smartly.

Walnut orchards in California are in a region of the state where rainfall is limited and water shortages are common. Inadequate irrigation of walnut trees results in reduced nut size, sunburn and increased susceptibility to insects and disease. Thus, walnut growers are compelled to irrigate the orchards throughout the growing season to ensure healthy yields. However, competition for water from other industrial sectors and increasing water costs means walnut growers must optimise water usage and irrigation schedules.

With Inmarsat’s new IoT solutions, farmers have new ways to cost-effectively monitor water levels in reservoirs, soil conditions across the property, and move water from where it is stored to where it is most needed. The Inmarsat IoT solution monitors soil humidity thereby allowing the orchard manager to compensate for variations across the property in groundwater deposits, soil porosity and water in filtration rates. The resulting irrigation schedules ensure consistent soil-water content for all trees and reduced water-stress problems.

The Inmarsat IoT solution provides real-time visibility into water reservoir levels across the property, measures any variability in soil humidity and optimises water distribution based on real-time soil humidity profiles. This ensures reduction of water stress on crops and enriches irrigation plans with external macro-weather data, characterised by low cost network installation and operations.

How it works

The Inmarsat IoT solution operates on LoRaWAN™ Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWAN) that are designed to optimise for battery life, range, indoor-outdoor coverage, bi-directionality and cost. It also utilises sensors and applications that are built to send small amounts of data over long distances, a few times per hour from varying environments, in addition to sensors in the field, which collect data and send short packets (chirps) of data to the gateway(s) with which it is associated and which are also located in the field.

The gateway in turn functions as a transparent bridge to forward/receive packets from the sensors to a cloud-based network server via backhaul (satellite, Ethernet, cellular, Wi-Fi). Inmarsat Satellite technologies are used to backhaul data – typically collected in remote regions where traditional terrestrial networks are lacking and/or unreliable. Additionally, as a singular operator, Inmarsat removes the burden of dealing with multiple carriers across geographical dispersed regions and countries.

The Network Server manages the data intelligence and network complexity and will filter redundant received packets, perform security checks, schedule acknowledgements through the optimal gateway, and perform adaptive data rate management (ADR enables capacity scalability). If an end-node is mobile, no handover is required from gateway to gateway, a critical feature to enable asset tracking applications (a major target application for IoT).

The integrated platform provides an end-to-end solution that transmits site-specific data to applications in the cloud for analysis, delivering insights and supporting decision making, and creating value for the end-customer.

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