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The Internet of Things in Almeria's greenhouses
Spain: Almeria, a model of smart agriculture for the worldIn addition to housing one of the planet's most unique natural ecosystems, the more than 20,000 hectares of greenhouses located in the west of Almeria store an amount of live information that is worthy of study. This information has to do with environmental factors, such as light, water, humidity, temperature or soil, which affect the development of crops, but the plants themselves also "speak" through their phytosanitary condition, their growth or their fruit and vegetable production volumes.
The huge amount of data that can be collected from this agricultural area has not gone unnoticed by the European Union, which is funding the ambitious project the Internet of Food & Farm through the Horizon 2020 aid program. This aims to bring the Internet of Things closer to European agriculture, and Almeria has become one of its main test centres.
The Internet of Things is the digital technology that converts this data into useful information for the agricultural value chain. The installation of smart sensors in the greenhouse makes it possible to collect all the data generated inside the farms. The main barrier preventing the use of this technology is its high cost, especially for small and medium producers. Due to this limiting factor, one of the main objectives set by the Internet of Food & Farm is not only to transfer the knowledge obtained to Almeria's agriculture, but to show that Smart Agro or Smart agriculture has come to stay, since it increases the profitability of agricultural holdings.
The great work done by the research team of the University of Almeria, which is coordinating these tests in the province, has not gone unnoticed outside of Spain. The international news channel Euronews has broadcast a TV report in which it points to this as one of the research projects that will be at the forefront of the smart agriculture of tomorrow.
The report talks about the intense work involved in the analysis of all variables that can affect the crop. "The composition of the soil, the weight of the plants, the composition of the air and other indicators are measured so that the producers can optimise the irrigation and the use of fertilizers," explained the program's presenter, who didn't overlook the "high profitability that this can bring to agricultural producers."
The visit starts in a farm located in the Experimental Station run by Cajamar. The project researcher Manuel Berenguel explains how the collection of information works. "The acquisition of data is carried out by means of different protocols and this comes from different sources. The aim is to create a large database in the cloud to then apply artificial intelligence techniques or Big Data."
Cynthia Giagnocavo, director of the Coexphal-UAL Chair and one of the big names of the Internet of Food & Farm project, insists that "the data collected can be added and shared with the fruit and vegetable cooperatives" in order to obtain accurate information about the entire production process.
Then, the reporters move to the facilities of CASI Aeropuerto, "possibly the most advanced in Europe," according to the company's chief operating officer, Cristóbal Ferriz. The program shows the calibrating machine that is capable of processing up to two million kilos of tomatoes daily and which makes it possible to sort the product based on three variables: size, colour and flavour.
Automation is one of the central axes of these facilities, which can now connect to the cloud thanks to this project in order to store and systematise all the information they generate. Researcher Jorge Sánchez sums it up as follows: "The grower has access to all the information about his product once it is handed over to the company, while the company obtains information about the product and the consumer gains access to all the information regarding the route that the product has followed on its way to the supermarket."
Publication date: 11/14/2017
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