Controlling drought and floods in potato fields by developing the soil’s automatic moisture regulation system

Researchers at the University of Oulu are developing a system for measuring and regulating moisture conditions in the soil of potato fields in Tyrnävä. The knowledge-based and automated regulation system offers significant help for farmers and is expected to enable higher and higher quality potato yields.

In the fields of Tyrnävä, Finland’s most important region for farming of seed potatoes, moisture levels are regulated by hand and generally assessed according to one’s own experience. Regulating the water level in drainage wells is a big job for farmers. In the Tyrnävä potato fields alone, there are around one thousand drain wells.

Now potato farmers are receiving the help of researchers from the Smart Machines and Systems research unit at the University of Oulu. The goal is to develop a system which will measure for each cultivated area the soil moisture level and drainage well water level and then regulate this water level either automatically or remotely.

The controlled regulation of drainage wells allows rain water to be "stored" in the soil more efficiently and also allows excess water to channelled away.   

 

In order to regulate the water levels in the wells at the right time, data is being collected from the Tyrnävä test fields for the soil and wells and also the weather conditions. In order to obtain this data, a variety of IoT-based antennas and measuring devices are being used. The developed application collects the data in graphical form and is readily accessible to farmers from their own computer device, or even from their own mobile phone.   

The aim of the knowledge-based soil moisture control project (TIMAKO) is to develop an automated and cost-effective moisture control system. Prototypes of self-regulating drainage wells have already been made in the laboratory.

The system is basically suitable for moisture control on any cultivated land.

The TIMAKO project is multidisciplinary. It involves five of the research units at the University of Oulu: Intelligent Machines and Systems, Environmental and Chemical Engineering; Water, Energy and Environmental Engineering, Marketing, Management and International Business, and Center for Ubiquitous Computing. The project has two-year Tutli funding (Research for New Business), which extends until the end of 2019.

Last updated: 16.9.2019