Laptop controlled irrigation revolutionising farming

System sets new world standard for water efficiency in irrigation farming

Rubicon's Total Channel Control system

Gino Ciavarella is the software development manager and a director of Rubicon Systems, a provider of specialist operational technology to the water and utility markets.

According to Ciavarella, the Total Channel Control (TCC) system used on Coleambally's farms runs on a Windows platform and is underpinned by relational database technology. The system can be run on Oracle, SQL Server or Ingres database engines.

"The database is processing millions of transactions per day with real time data coming in from the SCADA network and from irrigators placing their water orders online using the Internet and interactive voice response (IVR) system interfaces.

"We've got a water ordering component which takes care of all the customer's irrigation orders. We automatically schedule water order requests online using our Demand Management System software to deal with capacity constraints in the network and automatically reschedule them if required and then provide that information to the control system which then completely automates the delivery using the network of FlumeGates installed," Ciavarella said.

The computer system stores the irrigation channel network topology in the database so that how water flows from one point in the network to the other and what the demand is at any point in the network can be monitored, which is critical for determining whether there is capacity or supply constraint.

"So when the customer orders water they are asked for information about when they want to start, how long they want to water for, how much water they want to take in terms of a flow rate, and that is then downloaded into the FlumeGate out in the field over the radio network in seconds, and the gate will then open to deliver the irrigation," he said.

"We manage all the infrastructure for the TCC system and also use the FlumeGate as a communication node onto the farm, so they can get data from soil moisture probes that get inserted into the ground back to the central computer . That information is transmitted through a broadband radio backbone which we also roll out as part of our TCC systems."

Rubicon is currently interfacing its system into weather stations to further increase farmer's abilities to respond to climatic changes through its FarmConnect project.

"FarmConnect is using information captured from soil moisture probes on farms and using climatic data as well to predict when the irrigators will need to irrigate again. We've have had a trial in five farms for 12 months and its proven to be very beneficial.

"The irrigators have actually saved water in terms of having to irrigate less often because they have got more precise measurement of how their water is being used on the farm, and they realise they can save one or two irrigations which stretches that valuable resource a bit further," Ciavarella said.

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Andrew Hendry

Computerworld
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