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CEA-Leti Announces Smart-Farm Project to Lower Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Boost Farming Efficiency

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Leti, a research institute of CEA Tech, today announced a new European Commission smart-farming project that will deliver real-time data on soil conditions.

Deployed via small, private Internet of Things networks, the Sarmenti sensor node will provide farmers with the next generation of a reagent-free sensor platform to monitor in real-time soil nutrient concentration and measure local environmental conditions, especially emission of ammonia and greenhouse gases.

“Demand for sustainably produced food is driving current strategies in the intensification of the agricultural sector worldwide. To meet these challenges farmers will need to adopt a whole-farm approach to resource efficiency,” said Suzanne Lesecq, CEA-Leti director of research. “Meanwhile, there is no commercial system that provides real-time, in-situ concentration of different nutrients in the soil, while monitoring gaseous emissions just above the soil.”

Paris Agreement Emission Targets

Agriculture globally is a major source of greenhouse gasses. As EU member states seek to hit emission targets set in the Paris Agreement, projects like SARMENTI will provide continuous data for their farmers to track emission of hazardous gases and monitor the proper decomposition of manure.

EU Nitrates Directive

Current soil analyses are neither real-time nor in-situ, which limits the value of the results for farmers. SARMENTI-developed sensors will measure in-situ, high-temporal-resolution soil nutrient concentration that farmers can use to improve fertilizer management practices. This will help reduce nitrogen losses to the environment due to inappropriate fertilizer application and to meet goals of the EU’s Nitrates Directive, which aims to protect water quality by preventing nitrates from agricultural sources from polluting ground and surface water.

SARMENTI Soil and Air Probes

In addition, low-cost monitoring of ammonia, methane and nitrous oxide emissions will help producers track the nitrogen cycle and reduce losses due to denitrification, as well as promote the proper decomposition of manure.

The architecture for the SARMENTI IoT node is made of three devices:

  • A soil probe mainly contains electrochemical sensors in a hygroscopic membrane to monitor soil nutrient concentration.
  • An air probe located just above the ground monitors gases and environmental conditions in the environment surrounding the soil probe.
  • A smart data logger collects data from both probes and transmits them directly to the cloud. From these data, cloud advanced analytics will provide farmers with advice about optimal fertilization.

CEA-Leti is coordinating the three-year project and will provide expertise in electrochemical sensors. It also will provide the soil probe and cyber-security technology for the IoT. Other SARMENTI project participants include:

  • Tyndall-UCC (Ireland) also will provide expertise in electrochemical sensors. UCC’s Office of Corporate & Legal Affairs will provide legal counsel for the project.
  • STMicroelectronics (Italy) is in charge of the air probe that measures NH3, N2O and CH4 concentration, and of communication sub-modules and edge computing.
  • CSEM (Switzerland) is in charge of the smart data logger.
  • Atos (Romania) will implement the back-end servers and develop data analytics and decision-support tools.

Three consortium members will represent farmers and other end users of the system:

  • Terrasolis (France), a farmers association, will assess end-users’ needs and test the SARMENTI node in its fields.
  • Teagasc, the Irish Agriculture and Food Development Authority, will provide laboratory growth chambers and field sites for calibration and characterization of the node.
  • Spiro, a farm in Romania, also will validate the node’s operation.

[Image credit: Benjamin Davies for Unsplash]

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