Horticulture application of the UniPi 1.1 and UniPi Neuron

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Implementation of UniPi 1.1 and UniPi Neuron control units as a part of cheap enviromental system for Japanese small farmers

Introduction

In Japan, a large part of the agricultural production is provided by so-called horticulture - a traditional way of growing crops, mainly in greenhouses. Due to this tradition, a demand for environmental systems was growing recently, as farmers wished for a system that would allow a smart control and regulation in order to reduce energy costs and increase yields. Companies that manufacture components for such systems however often use their own standards and protocols and farmers thus were forced to either use only one brand of components, or to solve numerous issues with interoperability and mutual compatibility of various devices. In order to solve this problem, the UECS (Ubiquitous Environment System Control) initiative was formed, representing a decentralized environmental automatization control system. The UECS members are using a uniform standard, thanks to which all their devices are compatible with each other. This allows customers to freely customize their systems.

The WaBit SmartAgri Project has been a member of the UECS since 2011. During following years, the company developed several services and in 2016, a complete pre-made sensor kit was made, followed by a complete controller kit a year later, designed to be used for control and regulation of greenhouse environmental systems. And in these controller kit, an UniPi is present as well.

UECS-Pi Controller Kit &Neuron

The Controller Kit is a pre-made kit, supplied in a form of a compact-sized box. The box contains a Raspberry Pi single-board computer along with our UniPi 1.1 extension board. Additionally, a small LCD display is connected to UniPi's I2C port. Along with the controller itself, the customer can customize the package by adding various sensors are devices, such as sunlight detectors, 1-Wire thermal sensors, carbon dioxide concentration detector, weather stations etc. From the software point of view, a UECS-Pi Uni software is used, developed specifically for the UniPi 1.1. The software provides the user with a simple control interface for control and regulation of all connected devices. Alternatively, an UniPi Neuron can be used. WaBit offers a possibility to use any Neuron model from the product range offered, for which a UECS-Pi Neuron software was developed.

Both units are connected via Ethernet to a local network and user can manage the system using his personal computer. Another option is the WaBit's UECS Station Cloud service, allowing users to store data in a cloud and manage them. Cloud service also offers a choice to enable warning e-mails in case abnormalities are detected.

 

Technical diagram of a horticulture greenhouse system using UniPi 1.1 control unit

Technical diagram of a horticulture greenhouse system using UniPi Neuron L503 control unit

Practical use

Currently, over 50 customers are using WaBit products, all of them active in the field of agriculture. Most of the delivered systems are utilized in horticultural greenhouse applications, some systems were however purchased by a larger agricultural industry customers.

A showcase of a typical use of WaBit-supplied systems is the Okuma farm in Saitama prefecture. An UniPi controller here is used by a family of four as a controller of a system for growing cucumbers and tomatoes. Before the system's implementation, the owner had to physically check each individual greenhouse and manually set all necessary conditions. With the environmental system present, however, owners can monitor all their crops remotely and have a plenty of spare time used for growing other crops.

Farm's control and regulation system consist of one control unit, a pair of weather sensors (thermal, humidity and CO2 concentration detection) and the UECS Station Cloud service. Thanks to UECS compatibility, the system can be extended freely by any other UECS-compatible device, reducing the workload even further and allowing to increase energy and time savings.

Conclusion

WaBit SmartAgri can serve as a showcase of a fact, that automatization technology is not limited only to industrial and household applications, but can also be successfully employed in small agriculture projects as well. Japan itself is proof that modern IoT technology can be combined with a traditional horticulture and is able to allow small farmers to grow enough crops to be self-sufficient without any excessive time requirements.

And regarding the UniPi, it can serve as yet another proof of flexibility and adaptability of our control units, as well as their affordability.

Pictures

Control node using a single UniPi 1.1 control unit with small LCD display connected via I2C port

Several examples of employment of Neuron control units

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