18. December 2023

Water: Elixir of life and of apples - Innovative solutions, for sustainable agriculture (part 3)

Smart Land

A resource-saving, sustainable approach to nature is one of the most significant challenges facing agriculture in the future. In order to meet the challenge head on, South Tyrolean electricity provider Alperia, the South Tyrolean Advisory Service for Fruit Production and Winegrowing and the Laimburg Research Institute have come together to develop smart sensors and digital infrastructure which enable targeted irrigation of orchards and vineyards. These resource-saving instruments can result in water savings of 30% and more.

Thanks to intelligent measuring technology, the water requirement for drip irrigation can be reduced by up to 30 % (photo South Tyrolean Apple Consortium)

The Smart Land project was launched two years ago, and underwent a test phase in 60 farms in South Tyrol. The Laimburg Institute and the South Tyrolean Advisory Service developed a system of top-quality sensor technology to measure soil moisture in fields, and link it to weather and temperature data in real time. Alperia’s area-wide LoRaWan™ radio network protocol then transmits the field data to the farmer in real time via an app, thus allowing farmers to make irrigation decisions based on actual data from their own orchards.

This project also comes under the “sustainapple” sustainability strategy of the South Tyrolean orchard and vineyard sector. When all is said and done, needs-based irrigation is vital to successful, foresighted fruit cultivation: Efficient watering enables optimum, sustainable use of water resources and, likewise, is essential in order to regulate yield and quality of apple crops. “These reasons have compelled us to provide our members with a tool they can use to irrigate their apple trees as their needs dictate,” explains Robert Wiedmer, Service Coordinator and Head of Fruit Cultivation for the Advisory Service. “Our task was to develop a practical, user-friendly app which farmers can use to read data from the soil sensors in their own apple orchards in real time.”

"Now that the test phase has come to a successful close, the system is now market-ready, and can be used to conduct orchards management more sustainably,” says Giovanni Filippi, Operations Director for Alperia Smart Services. “In order to make this solution accessible to all farmers, we are offering it as a complete package, complete with the sensors for technical data transfer.” Members of the South Tyrolean Advisory Service for Fruit Production and Winegrowing also receive consultancy services free of charge.


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