A remote-controlled irrigation system

A remote-controlled irrigation system

ROMA – FARMERS are familiar with hard physical labour!
Irrigation surely picks a large portion of that labour.
But, in the 21st century, technology has made irrigation a bit easier and the National University of Lesotho (NUL) is making irrigation a walk in the park!

That is why ’Matjaka Ketsi, a NUL student supervised by Seforo Mohlalisi and Thabo Koetjoe, has developed a remote controlled system to irrigate.
Welcome to the world of remote control!
It works like this.

Let’s say you are hundreds or even thousands of miles away from your farm but you need to irrigate.
Here is what you do.

You pick your smart-phone, press an ON button on the right app and—irrigation begins—while you’re miles and miles away!
Not only that. If indeed water is being delivered, you get a message that it is, indeed, being delivered.
“It is a feedback system,” Ketsi says.

Now you can relax, resting assured that the pumping is going on.
When it’s time to stop, here you go again.
You press your OFF button on the app in your phone and—the water stops flowing! Just like that!
Not only that.

You receive a message that the water has stopped flowing.
You rest assured that you are not wasting even a drop of this precious liquid.
It is a feed-back system doing its magic!

Now, let’s suppose for unknown reasons the system starts pumping water even though you have not given instructions about this (these things happen).

“In that case, you will immediately receive a message that the system is pumping,” Ketsi says.
But you are not on your own. The same system that has given you a report, now allows you to stop the problem.
You, once again, press a STOP button on your smartphone and — the flow stops, much to your relief.

The system has been tested on a colossal farm, at least by Lesotho standards, in Mokema, owned by none other than the NUL educated software-developer and farmer Nkunyane Hoaba.
It works!

Hoaba had a bit of a problem in his farm, Litsoamobung Fresh Produce Farm.
He pumps water tens of meters away from the farm.

One has to drive or walk for about an hour to and from the pump to start or stop it.
Ketsi pictured the situation: “One has to make sure that once enough water is about to be collected or used, there is another rush to the pumping system to stop pumping—to avoid overflowing.”
Otherwise, water is wasted—and money along with it.

The situation, by its nature, makes for an interesting fodder that attracts the feeding of the Innovators of the Roma Valley—the NUL thinkers.
So the Innovators quickly encircled the problem—it would not escape.
“We developed a plan of attack,” Ketsi says.

But as anyone who’s ever attempted to solve a serious problem will tell you, you don’t jump into a problem, you study it first, and from afar if needs be.
“I first developed a system consisting of arduino (a micro-controller), a GSM module and a light Emitting Diode (LED).
“Li ea be se li qalile lirutehi ho bua maleme joale.”
Ok, let’s just assume you have a faintest idea of a micro-controller and a Light Emitting Diode (especially if you are a regular visitor to this platform), then you are safe.

But what’s a GSM module?
“It is like a modem, it is a device that communicates with mobile networks and can access smss, internet and even make calls,” Ketsi explains.
“So I wrote a code in which my arduino communicates with GSM to put our LED ON and OFF.”
But what’s that got to do with irrigation?
Wait a minute!

“Once that worked, I had proved my ability to, at least, control something,” a mere LED in this case, she says.
“I even made sure that I received a message that proved the light was on.”
Then she developed an android app.

“I could now control my LED using an app which I installed on my phone after developing.”
That done, she set her sights on the existing irrigation system in Mokema.
Oops! She was going big now.

“I had to familiarize myself with 3 phase electricity. I was entering a stranger and riskier territory.”
She had to modify the existing motor starter which people had to manually switch ON and OFF in that system.
And she built a different one, microcontroller with two relays, one for switching ON and another for switching OFF.
She delightedly tore down the old (20th century) system by removing and throwing off the buttons to replace it with her new sensor based system.
She tested the motor starter without pumping water and got signals that it was working.

It was after all these that she was confident enough to approach the whole irrigation system.
She couldn’t control her joy when she was able to prove that her system of microcontrollers, GSM modules and android apps and relays could allow her to pump water to the agricultural fields remotely.
This is the 21st century generation for you!

Own Correspondent

Previous Madness on a lorry
Next Pushing the dream

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