Water is becoming scarcer and more expensive. With direct and reliable information on crop water status, farmers can save water and increase yields.
Today, due to the lack of direct and reliable measurement, farmers typically overwater crops by up to 20% “just to be on the safe side.” Overwatering puts pressure on an already scarce and expensive resource, increases pollution from nutrient-rich runoff, affects the quality of the fruit, and reduces profitability.
Stem water potential (SWP) is a scientifically recognized, highly accurate parameter for determining water status in crops. Today, SWP can only be measured manually, using a labor-intensive procedure. Despite numerous approaches to sensor-based irrigation, including measuring soil and leaf moisture, the market lacks a solution that combines accuracy, ease of use, and affordability.
Saturas is developing a miniature SWP sensor that can be part of an automatic irrigation system. Embedded in the trunks of trees, vines, and plants, the sensor provides accurate information for optimized irrigation to reduce water consumption and increase fruit production and quality.
Components of the Saturas precision agriculture sensing system: miniature implanted sensors, in-orchard/in-vine communications and transponders, and control unit.
Saturas’ SWP sensing system automatically collects accurate data using a minimal number of sensors per hectare and transmits the data to a central control system connected to irrigation controllers for automated irrigation. The technology tailors irrigation to the real-time water needs of the crop, resulting in more efficient water use while increasing yields, fruit size, and sugar content (e.g., vineyards). Embedding the sensor in the trunk eliminates the common problem of damage to sensors that are placed in the soil or on the tree or vine.
Current solutions are the labor-intensive pressure chamber or costly electronic sensors that measure soil water and stem constriction. They require high maintenance (especially for calibration), have high variance, and lack accuracy. Saturas’ highly accurate sensors are the only ones to offer automatic SWP measurement combined with ease of use and at a significantly lower cost than products currently on the market.
Company estimates for irrigated orchards/plantations (~$675 million/year), vineyards (~$390 million/year), and irrigated cotton (~$200/year) alone indicate a combined potential of more than $1 billion per year.
Stem water potential (SWP) sensor for optimal irrigation
Stage: Technology development
Founded: April 2013
Investor: The Trendlines Group
IP: Provisional stage
Achievements: Q3 2013: POC in laboratory; Q2 2014: first alpha tests in trees and optimization
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