Farmer Jose Angulo has Bosch sensors on the trees of his olive plantation. They provide a smart irrigation system.
Smart Agriculture

IoT Based Smart Irrigation System

IoT and AI lead to increased yields

Clock 5 minutes

The trees on Señor Angulo’s plantations bear not only olives but also sensors. Smart irrigation helps to not only reduce his water consumption but also to increase yields.

An olive plantation with long rows of olive trees.

Europe’s fruit and vegetable garden lies in the south of Spain in Andalusia. The favorable climate with about 300 days of sunshine annually means that fruit and vegetables thrive there. Andalusia is simultaneously one of the continent’s driest regions. Climate change is posing problems for the local farmers and there is often a shortage of water in the scorching summer sun. “It’s why it’s important to optimize irrigation,” says Jose Antonio Fernandez Angulo. As the manager of two olive plantations about 80 kilometers east of Seville, he has to not only use water sparingly but also to dose it properly. Irrigation has an influence on the quality of the olives used later to make olive oil. “Too little water is bad, too much as well,” says the 46-year old Spaniard, hitting the nail on the head.

40,000 olive trees

stand in total on the two plantations managed by Jose Antonio Fernandez Angulo.

The sensor measures just how thirsty the tree is

An irrigation sensor on the leave of an olive tree.

Angulo works for the Oleopalma co-operative. It values tradition but also environmentally-friendly and modern growing methods. Their high-quality native olive oil is regularly awarded prizes and success is in part down to the 40,000 olive trees on Angulo’s plantations. When one stands in the middle of one of the plantations, a sea of olive green is spread out in long rows. Only people that take a close look will notice that white devices are attached to some of the leaves. Inside are Bosch sensors that permanently measure the water status of the tree, through the pressure variation that the cell juice inside the olive leaf puts on the cell wall. A high pressure is important for the plant — without it, the leaves would lose their rigidity and wilt. The daily logging of pressure variation in the leaves and the ambient temperature, enables one to know if the tree is correctly hydrated or stressed through a lack of water. The sensors therefore measure just how good the irrigation on the plantation is.

“The sensors enable me to find the optimal set-up for the irrigation system and make sure the plants get exactly the right amount of water.”

Jose Antonio Fernandez Angulo, plantation manager
A Bosch sensor is attached to the leave of an olive tree.
The sensor measures the pressure variation of the cell juice inside the olive leaf and therefore determines whether the tree has enough water.
A gateway in a black case is attached on an olive tree.
A gateway receives the sensor data via Bluetooth and sends it via the mobile communications network to the Cloud.
A smartphone with the irrigation recommendation from the cloud.
Once in the Cloud, an artificial intelligence calculates, by means of the leaf sensor, the trees’ water status. This information combined with the data of the weather forecast, amongst other things, provides growers with a weekly irrigation recommendation is send to the grower’s smartphone.
The cycle of sensor, gateway, cloud and smartphone.
Sensors, gateways, cloud and smartphone form a smart irrigation system.

From a leaf to the Cloud

The farmer Señor Angulo attaches a gateway to an olive tree.

Jose Antonio Fernandez Angulo has attached sensors to leaves on selected trees. A smart irrigation package system contains six leaf sensors, to be placed where growers decide, depending on orchard characteristics. The measurement data for the individual trees suffices to provide information about the water supply for every tree. The data collected from the leaf sensors is transferred via a Bluetooth connection to gateways — little black boxes attached to the tree trunks. From there it is sent via the mobile communications network to the Bosch Cloud where it is combined with other parameters. The algorithms of an artificial intelligence then calculate precisely the tree’s water status and classify it in three different status: Well irrigated, soft stress and severe stress. This information is linked with the weather forecast data enabling the amount of water needed by the orchards to be calculated. All this relevant information is sent to Angulo’s mobile. “Using the smartphone app, I can check the water content of the trees and receive an irrigation recommendation every week,” he says. “It means I can find the optimal set-up for the irrigation system and make sure the plants get exactly the right amount of water.”

20 per cent

less water is used by Jose Antonio Fernandez Angulo thanks to smart irrigation on his plantations.

Smart irrigation is well worth it

Angulo has been using the Bosch smart irrigation solution for about a year. “I’ve been able to reduce water consumption on the plantations by 20 per cent and increase the yield by 5 per cent,” he said when summing up. Meanwhile other growers are following his lead. Whilst only 15 of the world’s growers were using the system in 2018, this season it is already up to 80, most of them in Spain. Smart irrigation has been validated for olive crops. Since 2019, the Bosch team responsible of the development of this solution has been testing the same technology on other crops, such us almonds, vineyards or citrus fruits. Jose Antonio Fernandez Angulo is convinced that the algorithms and his olive trees are the perfect match. “It’s good for us. And for nature.”

Less water — more yield

Infographic with two bottles of water.
Thanks to smart irrigation Jose Angulo can save annually up to 20 percent of water on his two olive plantations.
Infographic with two bowls of olives.
At the same time the yield increases by five percent.

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