Impact Journalism Day by Sparknews: A better home - No. 18

Sensor checks if crops are irrigated

TOKYO • A water-monitoring system developed by Tokyo-based venture SenSprout can prevent water wastage, save expenses and promote consistent growth of top-quality produce.

It is designed for dry climates where water is scarce and expensive, like in the central Indian city of Nagpur in Maharashtra state.

There, two orange farms are taking part in an experiment to further develop the system, in collaboration with the Indian Institute of Technology. The team aims to refine the system so that it can provide accurate information to farmers, telling them if their crops have been adequately irrigated.

 

The team plans to conduct similar experiments in three other regions in India and expand the project to the West Coast of the United States.

These areas receive little rainfall and require farmers to use motorised pumps for irrigation. This incurs extra financial costs and creates environmental problems.

The project was financed through crowdfunding donations from 138 people around the world last year. It also won a monetary award of $150,000 in a venture start-up competition.

A SenSprout team member checks a water sensor at a farm set up by the University of Tokyo in Nishitokyo city.
A SenSprout team member checks a water sensor at a farm set up by the University of Tokyo in Nishitokyo city. PHOTO: ASAHI SHIMBUN

The sensor itself was developed by a research team led by Professor Yoshihiro Kawahara, 38, an associate professor of information and communication engineering at the University of Tokyo. Prof Kawahara helped to establish SenSprout and acts as a technical adviser to the company.

Similar agricultural sensors have been produced, but they are mostly high-end equipment and are mainly used in data gathering by scholars and researchers.

SenSprout's sensor units, which are made of low-cost materials, cost less than 100,000 yen (S$1,280) to produce.

The team is also conducting experiments in Japan with farmers who seek consistent quality in their produce.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 25, 2016, with the headline 'Sensor checks if crops are irrigated'. Print Edition | Subscribe