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Enhancing Landscape Sustainability with Soil Sensors

Landscapes are integral in any ecosystem for many reasons: beautification, environmental purification, noise reduction, and improved quality of life. On a more practical level, landscaping is also expensive–both in execution and upkeep. As more and more businesses strive to reduce their carbon footprint, the landscaping industry has pioneered many innovative and sustainable changes.  Despite landscaping relying solely on resources that are not infinite, the commercial landscaping industry has generated innovations in irrigation, fertilizer, and drainage systems to make landscaping more eco-friendly. Among these inventions are soil sensors. Even if your landscaping operations have energy renewing and sustainable practices, adding soil sensors to the mix will only magnify the durability and preservation efforts of your landscaping management.

While soil sensors are a relatively new product to grace agricultural markets, soil probes have quickly proven their effectiveness in cost and resource efficiency. Once inserted into the soil, most soil probes measure moisture levels, salinity, ambient temperature, and light levels. This data is transmitted to a cell phone or desktop and allows for adjustments to be made in irrigation practices. In landscaping, soil sensors have been found to reduce water usage, promote healthy plant growth, and can help combat the damages from climate changes. A 2012 study done by the General Services Administration found that soil sensors can reduce upwards of 40% of water waste. Not only do soil sensors conserve resource expenditure in landscapes, but they also promote comprehensive sustainability in landscaping management.

In addition to conserving water usage, it is also worth noting that soil sensors are incredibly accessible and user-friendly. Compared to the setup required for irrigation systems, soil sensors are much easier to install and understand. Soil probes are also fairly affordable and work in tandem with whatever irrigation system your landscaping employs. From a business perspective, soil sensors also differentiate landscaping companies from their competitors and encourage continuous savings and conservation for customers. Simply put, soil sensors are likely the future of sustainability in landscaping. With soil sensors, landscapes appear greener and wallets are able to stay green with lifelong savings and resource efficiency.

A Christmas Gift Guide for the Farmer in Your Life

As the holiday season draws closer, you may already be thinking about what to buy for your friends, family, and loved ones. Of course, when adding things into your shopping cart, it’s only logical to throw something in there for yourself as well. But better yet, why not get something that treats yourself as well as your farm. In an occupation that constantly challenges farmers with fickle weather, limited resources, and long hours it is more important than ever to work smarter, not harder. Here are 5 must-have agri-tech items that both you and your farm will be happy to have under your Christmas tree this year.

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  1. Rechargeable Headlamp

As sunlight becomes more and more rare in winter months and you find yourself running a farm at 6 a.m. in the dark, allow me to introduce you to your new best friend. A rechargeable headlamp is a simple and affordable way to make your life easier whether you’re getting a head start to the day or fixing a last minute problem at night. Rechargeable headlamps allow you to operate hands free while illuminating everything in your path. Best of all: no batteries are required. Simply plug your headlamp into an outlet along with your cell phone before you hit the hay. 

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  1. Drone

Nowadays, drones are not just used by military members and instagram influencers; they have quickly become an invaluable gadget in farming. Agricultural drones provide an aerial view of your crops, allowing for closer monitoring of your farm in a faster and less exhaustive way. Although drones are on the pricier side, investing in one, especially if you have a large farm, will save you time, energy, and resources for years to come.

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  1. Soil Sensor

If you’re looking for an item that will make a big impact on a tight budget, a soil sensor is the product for you. Soil probes gather data below the soil and provide information on your crops that are hard to measure and see. Generally, soil sensors measure moisture levels, salinity, ambient temperature, and light levels. With a soil sensor, you can save time, money, and resources by understanding your plant’s needs and having valuable data sent straight to your smartphone or desktop. Although some soil sensors are on the pricey side, our sensors use a low-frequency measuring technique that allows us to produce sensors at a considerably lower cost.

  1. Self-driving Tractor

This is arguably the most expensive item on the list and the gift least likely to fit under a Christmas tree. Despite the high price tag and perhaps your reluctance to go for anything that can drive itself, self-driving tractors seem to be the future of farming. Unlike self-driving cars, self-driving tractors are incredible low risk and can help farmers expand their farming capabilities. With a self-driving tractor, you can let a machine do all or part of your work while you track its progress via GPS. 

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  1. Tile Key Tracker

Although this item is not exclusively for farmers, a key tile tracker is an excellent and affordable gift for the forgetful farmer in your life. Tile bluetooth trackers attach to any set of keys and allow you to locate the missing item in seconds through sound technology. Finding a set of keys on an expansive farm can be a lot like looking for a needle in a haystack. With a tile tracker, locating your lost keys on the job will no longer be a calamitous ordeal.

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2020 has been a great year for tech in agriculture. The items above reflect the innovations of the past year at various price points. Whether you’re shopping for yourself or your favorite farmer, hopefully these gadgets help make life a little easier and the holidays a little merrier.

5 Hacks to Improve Your Drip Irrigation Systems

What do cars, cell phones, and drip irrigation systems all have in common? Like most technologies, they can always be updated and improved. Although you may not be replacing your timed irrigation system as frequently as you get an oil change or a new iPhone, your irrigation systems can be modified and repaired to improve results. Here are five tips for maximizing your drip irrigation system.

1. Find a Filter

Over time, drip irrigation systems can be corroded by dirt, sediment, and the elements. This can cause your emitters or drip lines to become congested. As a result, the efficiency of your drip system will decline and plants may not receive enough water. To combat this, try inserting a mesh filter around exposed entry points. Most filters connect to hoses/faucets and block out the gunk that can erode your irrigation system.

2. Tweak your Timer

If you aren’t already using some sort of timer to track watering schedules, I highly recommend you start. Timers can help create a consistent schedule and ensure your plants receive enough water. If you are unhappy with your plant’s appearance or health, modifying your timer’s schedule might assuage your plant’s troubles. Try less water, more water, or watering at different times of day to see if this improves your harvest.

3. Source a Sensor

Of course, the simplest way to improve your timed irrigation system would be to install a soil sensor. With a soil sensor, you no longer need to experiment with watering schedules or timers. Soil probes provide valuable information like soil salinity, moisture levels, and ambient temperature which can help you understand the environment in which your plants are growing. From there, simply adjust your water schedule or add fertilizer to improve the quality of your plants.

4. Combat the Cold

As the weather gets colder, the components of your drip irrigation system should be winter-proofed. One way to accomplish this is by punching holes in your tubing. This hack ensures water inside the tubing does not have a chance to freeze by allowing the water trapped inside to evaporate. Another way to protect your irrigation system from cold weather is to use a drain valve to guarantee all the water leaves your tubing when you are done irrigating for the season.

5. Mix with Mulch

Mulch has numerous benefits to gardens, but mulch can also help your drip irrigation system. Adding a generous layer of mulch along the tubing of your drip system can help prevent water from evaporating before it has a chance to reach the roots of your plants. Mulch can also help your soil retain water and soil moisture.

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Hopefully these tips will help update your old irrigation system or protect your new irrigation system from future wear. Over time, you should be able to see these simple tricks improve the efficiency of your drip irrigation system and the quality of your plants. 

The Tech Your Timed Irrigation Systems Are Missing

Drip irrigation systems are beloved by many for their ability to conserve water and simplify the irrigation process. While drip systems certainly beat out other irrigation systems in terms of water conservation, did you know you could actually be saving even more water in timed irrigation with soil sensors? Soil probes work in tandem with your timed systems but are able to retrieve data based on your crops’ relationship to climate and irrigation patterns. In short, all irrigation systems require a bit of approximation in set-up and irrigating. Soil sensors take the guesswork out of timed irrigation systems and will leave your plants more nourished and your water source less exerted. 

When inserted near crops, soil sensors are able to see below the soil and send data to your smartphone or desktop. Drip irrigation provides a steady source of direct water but cannot account for your crops evolving needs, especially when considering changes in climate and sunlight levels. Soil probes help you better understand your plants in ways a timed irrigation system cannot. When paired together, you can adjust your irrigation to meet the changes in your crops as they grow.

Soil sensors measure soil moisture levels, soil salinity, light, and ambient temperature. In other words, with soil sensors, you will receive detailed information on if your crops need more/less water, if your soil needs more fertilizer, if your plants are experiencing any stress, if water is evaporating too quickly from the soil, and if your crops are getting enough sunlight. These are all indicators that drip irrigation cannot measure but can benefit greatly from knowing.

Timed irrigation systems are superheroes for streamlining the irrigation process. Think of soil sensors as your systems’ trusty sidekick–able to account for the crops your irrigation system oversees and make adjustments when necessary. Together, drip irrigation systems and soil probes are a powerful duo, and more than that, they are also an affordable one. Typically, installing a drip irrigation system can cost around $40. While soil sensors can be costly, our soil probes use a low-frequency measuring technique that allows us to produce sensors at a considerably lower price. While you may be hesitant to add yet another gadget to your soil, sensors provide a number of informative benefits. In the long run, sensors will save you money by allowing you to conserve water and reduce long-term wear in drip irrigation systems.

Setting Up A Drip Irrigation System – The Basics

Drip irrigation systems are ideal for farmers looking to conserve water. While this system has promising results, it can be a bit difficult to achieve without the proper set up. There are many drip irrigation kits available to help you set up your own drip system. Whether you already have a kit at hand or are hoping to construct one yourself, this article can help you get started.

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Here are the items you will need to set up your own drip system:

  • Pre-punched drip irrigation tubing that is ¼-½ inch thick
  • Drip emitters – plastic device that hooks up to irrigation tubing and releases water droplets into plant
  • Backflow preventer valve 
  • Barbed connectors 
  • Plastic ground stakes
  • Elbow connectors

Once you’ve collected the necessary materials, start laying out rough placements of your tubing and emitters around the area you want to irrigate. Ideally, the drip tubes should weave around the designated area like a picture frame. Each crop should have an emitter nearby that will serve as the crop’s own personal sprinkler. Emitters should be placed between 12-24 inches apart. 

1 & 2 GPH Single Outlet Drip Emitter on Stake (100 Pack) 06-055 - 06-0 —
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To ensure that water will flow from your outdoor water source through the drip system, install a backflow preventer valve to your outdoor water line. You may also need a hose adapter to ensure a perfect fit. Once securely attached, connect your main water line to the newly installed backflow preventer valve.

How to Install an Outdoor Faucet | Outdoor remodel, Diy plumbing, Faucet
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Next, you’ll want to return to your tubing placement and attach the tube to your central hose bib. Use barbed connectors to attach your pre-punched tubing and emitters. Then, secure the connected tubing with plastic ground stakes to ensure all your hard work stays in place. 

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As you repeat these steps over the whole area, the tubing may have to turn at a sharp angle. To avoid damaging the drip system, cut the tubing and reattach it with elbow connectors. This will ensure water flows continuously. Once finished, cut the tubing and leave the end exposed so you can drain it with water later. Drip irrigation systems should be flushed every 4-6 months to avoid water blockage or erosion. Finally, cover the entire tubing area with a few inches of mulch. This will stop water from evaporating before it can reach your crops and conserve water.

Drip Irrigation System Buying Guide
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Hopefully these steps help you easily set up your drip irrigation system. The entire process should take no more than a few hours and costs under $50. Drip irrigations are affordable to set up and will save you money down the line by maximizing water and plant growth. Most of all, drip irrigation systems are durable when properly maintained and hopefully will continue to save you water for many growing seasons to come.

Irrigation Investigation: The Tech Your Crops and Irrigation Systems Are Missing

Water may never change, but the roots it nourishes certainly do. While there are numerous irrigation methods that claim to be the best, what technique is actually the most effective? The answer varies depending on the crop, but generally speaking, all methods have their supremacies and shortcomings. Though it would be near impossible to succinctly break down the best irrigation practices for every plantable crop, I have chosen three common crops and discern how to best tailor your irrigation patterns for maximum results. 

  1. Potato

One of the most popular and versatile vegetables, potatoes are grown in nearly 2,000 varieties in 160 countries around the world. This global presence also means that potatoes are planted and irrigated in many different ways. Here in the United States, the drip irrigation method is the most used among farmers. Potatoes are a root vegetable, and a drip irrigation method allows water to directly reach the roots growing deep in the soil. Drip irrigation systems are attractive to farmers as they emit zero pollution and minuscule evapotranspiration. 

On the down side, drip irrigation systems should only be implemented if farmers have a clear understanding of their crops, field, and other external factors. Farmers can counteract this information barrier by installing soil sensors alongside their drip irrigation system. Soil sensors work in tandem with drip irrigation to ensure crops receive the ideal amount of water, sunlight, and nutrients. Our soil sensors use a capacitive measuring technique to extract data and simultaneously send notifications of a crops well-being to your phone. With soils sensors, using a drip irrigation method for potatoes ensures maximum crop management and water conservation.

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  1. Carrot

Similar to the potato, carrots also thrive with drip irrigation systems. This is not surprising considering carrots also belong to the root family. Studies have shown that carrots grow most effectively when given about an inch of water each week in the growing season. With a drip irrigation system, farmers can implement a stable steam of water to reach each layer of the plant. However, carrots do differ from their potato relatives in their need for fertilizer. A potato can, although it is not recommended, grow without soil. In contrast, carrots require soil rich with nutrients and often, the additional use of fertilizers to maximize growth. In this regard, soil sensors can help the efficiency of drip irrigation systems by understanding the underlying needs of your soil and crops. With the use of soil sensors, farmers are made aware of detailed soil salinity and soil moisture reports to help their carrot crops thrive in all conditions. 

  1. Wheat

When it comes to large scale farming endeavors, some farmers have found that an overhead irrigation method is most effective. The set up and maintenance for drip irrigation and other irrigation methods can become quite tedious when replicated on a large field. Overhead irrigation allows water to have greater coverage and uniformity. For a crop like wheat, which usually grows in large clusters, overhead irrigation is a viable alternative to the drip irrigation system. The main downside to overhead irrigation is that this method can have blind spots and leave some crops dry and under-watered. If farmers irrigate on a windy or sunny day, the elements can also divert water and leave plants under-nourished. However, soil sensors can accommodate overhead irrigation when placed around fields. Soil sensors can ensure that elements and irrigation placements are accounted for when measuring growth and soil moisture.

Although each irrigation method serves a different purpose, no irrigation method is superior and all systems have their disadvantages. When determining which irrigation system is most appropriate for your crops, farmers should consider using soil sensors to improve their crop’s health and yields. After all, so many factors determine the quality of a crop – irrigation is just one of them. With soil sensors, irrigation systems can be maximized through a greater understanding of how your crops react to water, soil, and their environment.

Sensors and Sensibility: Saving with Soil Sensors

While soil sensing technologies are still a relatively new product, some companies have started introducing them to mass markets. In short, soil sensors/probes, ours in particular, use capacitive measuring techniques to gauge moisture levels, salinity, ambient temperature, and light levels. These combined measurements allow farmers to reap optimal yields from crops while maximizing their time, money, and resources. Now, farmers can take quicker, more precise actions due to the near instantaneous response time of soil probes.

One case study done by the University of Florida found that the usage of soil probes saves farmers around 59% of their original water usage. This same study also observed that plants with soil sensors had deeper root growth, reduced runoff soil, and less wilting. In short, soil sensors have been proven to conserve water usage, protect crops from the effects of over or under watering, and promote healthier plant growth.

For any farmer, perhaps the only element more mercurial than the weather during growing season is the soil. While weather updates and proverbial warning signs have made it easier to gauge whether it will rain tomorrow, what lies below the earth is paramount to plant production and even more difficult to forecast. Leading agricultural scientists have sought to find a solution to soil miscalculations and have in turn managed to create a product that doubles as a way to conserve money, labor, and natural resources. The solution I’m talking about: soil sensors. Why? Simply put, it just makes sense.

While soil sensing technologies are still a relatively new product, some companies have started introducing them to mass markets. In short, soil sensors/probes, ours in particular, use capacitive measuring techniques to gauge moisture levels, salinity, ambient temperature, and light levels. These combined measurements allow farmers to reap optimal yields from crops while maximizing their time, money, and resources. Now, farmers can take quicker, more precise actions due to the near instantaneous response time of soil probes.

Our soil sensors in action

One case study done by the University of Florida found that the usage of soil probes saves farmers around 59% of their original water usage. This same study also observed that plants with soil sensors had deeper root growth, reduced runoff soil, and less wilting. In short, soil sensors have been proven to conserve water usage, protect crops from the effects of over or under watering, and promote healthier plant growth.

The average person makes around 35,000 decisions each day. The average farmer easily makes twice that, especially during growing season. However, farmers do not have the luxury of making wrong decisions when it comes to agriculture. One wrong choice could be the cost of an entire crop. Smart farming choices are no longer just a matter of cost or conservation, they are a matter of precision and practicality. With soil sensing probes, farmers have access to a wealth of previously hidden information about their farms performance and needs. Although the technology around soil sensors can seem overwhelming, our soil sensors connect to smartphones and offer a straightforward breakdown of soil performance. Soil sensors are not only sensible for plant production, they are also rich with savings when it comes to your time, money, and resources. When considering if sensors are for you, the choice should be rather simple. After all, without soil sensors, what goes on beneath the surface of your crops makes a lot less sense.