Sensors warn grower in case of water shortage

In the future, German pot plant growers will receive a notification on their PC, smartphone, or tablet when the pot plants need water. That signal comes from sensors in the pots in combination with artificial intelligence. The warning system is one of the results of the 'Nursery Stock Growing Support System' project at the experimental station in Straelen, Germany. The Business Unit Greenhouse Horticulture and Flower Bulbs of Wageningen University & Research are involved in the project as an advisor because of its knowledge and experience with sensors.

In North Rhine-Westphalia, many growers grow potted plants in the open air. They determine, among other things, on the basis of experience when the plants need water. This can sometimes lead to excessive watering. The grower then has to spend more money on irrigation (which takes place with fixed sprinklers or irrigation booms) for water, energy, and labor. In addition, valuable fertilizers can then leach into the soil, which is also restricted by environmental regulations. Watering too little is also possible and leads to quality problems and less production.

The project uses sensors from the Dutch company Quantified, which communicate wirelessly with a gateway connected to the cloud via the internet or a 4G connection. Three moisture sensors are used per valve section, which, to keep costs low, all work via the same transmitter. The grower can monitor the moisture content of the plants in the relevant section on a website. In addition, the sensors also provide other relevant information, such as the EC content and the temperature in the pot, but air temperature, relative humidity, and the position of the sensors are also monitored.

Some German nurseries have now been equipped with this system. The next step is a warning system based on artificial intelligence. The aim is that a grower receives a signal if the system expects the moisture content in the plants (in an hour, for example) to fall below a threshold value. In addition, the experimental station is working on a method to calibrate the sensors for different types of growing media.

The Nursery Stock Growing Support System' project is funded through the Project Promotion Program under the European Innovation Partnership "Agricultural Productivity and Sustainability" (EIP Agrar), which is an integral part of the Nordrhein-Westfalen program for rural areas 2014-2020 and jointly funded by the EU and North Rhine-Westphalia.

More information about the project can be found on the website of the Landwirtschaftskammer Nordrhein-Westfalen (in German) and the website of WUR (in Dutch).

For more information:
Wageningen University & Research


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