GroLab™ Automation of the Day – Drip Irrigation System Control
Welcome to another post of GroLab™ Automation Series!
In this third episode, we’ll teach you how to easily automate your drip irrigation system with GroLab™ using our schedule tool.
A bit of history….
Primitive drip irrigation has been used since ancient times. Fan Sheng-Chih Shu (氾勝之書), written in China during the first century BCE, describes the use of buried, unglazed clay pots filled with water, sometimes referred to as Ollas, as a means of irrigation. Modern drip irrigation began its development in Germany in 1860 when researchers began experimenting with subsurface irrigation using clay pipe to create combination irrigation and drainage systems. The research was later expanded in the 1920s to include the application of perforated pipe systems. The usage of plastic to hold and distribute water in drip irrigation was later developed in Australia by Hannis Thill.
Usage of a plastic emitter in drip irrigation was developed in Israel by Polish-born Simcha Blass and his son Yeshayahu. Instead of releasing water through tiny holes easily blocked by tiny particles, water was released through larger and longer passageways by using velocity to slow water inside a plastic emitter. The first experimental system of this type was established in 1959 by Blass who partnered later (1964) with Kibbutz Hatzerim to create an irrigation company called Netafim. Together they developed and patented the first practical surface drip irrigation emitter.
In the United States, the first drip tape, called Dew Hose, was developed by Richard Chapin of Chapin Watermatics in the early 1960s. Chapin Watermatics was acquired by Jain Irrigation in 2006 and is housed under its US subsidiary Jain Irrigation Inc, USA.
Modern drip irrigation has arguably become the world’s most valued innovation in agriculture since the invention in the 1930s of the impact sprinkler, which offered the first practical alternative to surface irrigation. Drip irrigation may also use devices called micro-spray heads, which spray water in a small area, instead of dripping emitters. These are generally used on tree and vine crops with wider root zones. Subsurface drip irrigation (SDI) uses permanently or temporarily buried dripperline or drip tape located at or below the plant roots. It is becoming popular for row crop irrigation, especially in areas where water supplies are limited, or recycled water is used for irrigation. Careful study of all the relevant factors like land topography, soil, water, crop and agro-climatic conditions are needed to determine the most suitable drip irrigation system and components to be used in a specific installation.
Why drip irrigation?
If you are growing on soil or coconut, a drip irrigation system will save you hours of maintenance with your plants, instead of irrigating each plant by hand, where you can always have issues with too much or too less water, a drip irrigation system will ensure that every plant is fed with the water it needs without almost any effort from the grower.
The drip irrigation system, also ensures that most of the water/nutrient solution you are providing for your plants is not getting lost in the surrounding soil.
These systems are massively used due to their easy installation, reliability and cheap acquisition. Since they are based on hoses that go through your facility, and since these hoses can be really flexible, usually installing this type of system does not provide any difficulties or changes to your current installation.
With these systems, the costs usually depend on two factors, the quality of the tubes, hoses, drippers and mostly the capacity and reliability of the water pump that feeds the system. For industrial systems, these pumps need to be extremely robust and reliable, but for a home grower, a cheap submersible pump can easily do the job.
Drip irrigation challenges
It’s not all roses, drip irrigation system present two major difficulties.
The first one is the mathematics associated with a system of this kind, you want to ensure that if you have a 100 drippers system, the first dripper presents the same pressure that the last one, if this does not happen, you’ll be feeding some plants more than others and that can be a problem for your grow. This math is usually made based on the power of the water pump, the diameter of the tubes and hoses used, and the pressure you want at every dripper in your system.
These are the main factors, but there are still other details that you need to take into account, like, if the water moving on a horizontal or vertical plane, because this will change the pressure in your hoses.
The second one is the maintenance, this is where the materials quality you are using is really important, cheap drippers clog quite easily, so you need to constantly check if any of your drippers are blocked, and do the respective maintenance that can go from cleaning the dripper in a regular basis or replacing it with a new one.
How to control a dripping system with GroLab™?
There are several types of equipment on the market to act as a timer and automatically activate your drip system, here we are presenting the solution using a GroLab™ Starter Kit. This is a kit capable of executing schedules with a minimum time ON of 5 seconds, manage irrigation for 8 different grows with different schedules and/or water pumps, while giving you access to a digital platform where you can control your irrigation via a PC application.
The drip irrigation system is up to you, small or large, expensive or cheap, you can easily find the best solution in the market to make your irrigation based on a drip system. With GroLab™ Starter Kit you just need to plug your water pump to an available socket in PowerBot, open the GroLab™ Software and configure a daily schedule for your irrigation to happen.
In this video, we are assuming you will irrigate every day with the same amount of water, but we know this might not be true, so we give you the flexibility to choose any day of the week that you want your irrigation to happen and also the amount of time you want it running.
The example you see in the Automation of the Day video presents an Irrigation of 10 minutes every day at 17:50 (05:50pm).
This schedule is fully configurable, from the Weekdays you wish your irrigation to happen, to the respective start date and duration.
Every drip irrigation installation will have its own time needs, GroLab™ Software was made in a way that you can fully customize your schedules to your needs in an unprecedented way.
In four small videos, we showed you how to control your lights, manage your growing temperature, ensure the best levels of humidity inside your growing environment, and the customization of an automatic drip irrigation system, all of this using the GroLab™ Starter Kit from Open Grow™.
On the next post we’ll talk you through the process of adding more controlled outputs to your GroLab™ system, so you can control even more aspects of your grow.
If you have any questions or suggestions do not hesitate to comment, or if you need a more individual assistance, message us by using our contact form or send us an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, we will be happy to answer you.