Libelium LoRa technology monitors fields in Hungary

  • March 24, 2021
  • Steve Rogerson

Hungary’s first laboratory for monitoring farmers’ fields is relying on IoT technology from Spanish firm Libelium.

Hungarian researchers designed the field-monitoring project to help farmers make decisions.

Agriculture accounts for 3.2% of the country’s GDP and plays an important role in rural development. To get an idea, in 2018 Hungary produced 7.9 million tons of corn, making it the 15th largest producer in the world.

However, agricultural land is tremendously heterogeneous. The soil components show great variation and mutability both in terms of kilometre extension and time dimension since the parameters can change during two measurement dates. All these factors make the result of a harvest vary in quantity and quality from one point to another.

To help the national agricultural sector, Széchenyi István University has designed a smart agriculture project with Libelium agriculture, water and environmental sensors, which they refer to as the field monitoring laboratory.

The faculty of agricultural and food sciences is in Mosonmagyaróvár in western Hungary. The faculty farm extends its field crop production to more than 400 hectares.

The heterogeneity in Hungary’s agriculture coupled with the lack of digitisation makes it difficult to make informed decisions to improve production. Libelium technology used in this project includes five Libelium Xtreme smart agriculture devices, two Pro smart water nodes and a smart environment device with LoRaWan connectivity in a field laboratory.

The main objective of the project is to collect information on the soil and climate from the field and its surroundings and the effects on the production of corn and wheat. In this way, researchers will be able to offer information to help the decision-making of local farmers.

The researchers installed the devices in two crop fields measuring 6 and 15ha of corn and wheat in different types of soil.

The two smart water nodes have been installed in an artificial water pit to detect the pH and the nitrite and nitrate content of the soil water. The five smart agriculture devices have been installed in the crop, on different types of soil. The idea is to compare soil and growth circumstances, for example soil electrical conductivity, soil water content, leaf, and weather conditions. The smart environment node monitors environmental soil conditions such as CO2 and ammonia.

In addition, UAVs (unmanned aerial drones), robots with artificial intelligence interfaces, and remote sensing techniques complement the installation.

The results contribute to the analysis of the effects of climate change concerning the development of decision support models.

Once in the cloud, different techniques analyse the data automatically collected, for example statistical methods, physiological models of crops and artificial intelligence. Until now, these data were collected manually in a difficult, long and expensive process. This new network of sensors automatically collects parameters on soil, environment, atmosphere and soil water variables as big data and provides clearer results.

Software, designed by the laboratory, receives data compiled in real time and they are stored and analysed. This information is accessible from any computer or smartphone, allowing the research team to obtain data automatically and make decisions in a faster and more efficient way.

The information collected by the sensors is sent directly to Antenna Hungária’s Loriot LoRaWan cloud. Antenna Hungária is a state company based in Budapest, collaborating in this deployment, which is working on the design of a LoRaWan throughout the country. In this manner, the crop monitoring project also contributes to the implementation of LoRaWans in Hungary for consolidating the IoT and digitisation in agriculture.

From this cloud, the university receives the data in its servers, where researchers can develop dashboards and applications.

The laboratory has become the country’s first agro-IoT project. Research activities began in 1998 with site-specific performance mapping. The research team has a two-decade track record in the field of digital data collection; they can fill the agricultural digitisation system with historical data.

To increase the production of sustainable crops, the laboratory works from different viewpoints:

  • Automation of data collection
  • Remote monitoring of microclimatic parameters within the crop field
  • Access real-time data from any device at any time
  • Collect data to inform current and future work
  • Troubleshooting with detailed analysis

This system allows farmers to make more precise decisions to adapt to changes and produce safe, high-quality food while preserving the environment, contributing to sustainable development. Thus, in the years to come, Hungary hopes to improve its position in the world ranking of corn and wheat producers and improve the quality of its production so farmers can monetise the data.

The project is financed by the European Union and the Hungarian government.