Recent climate changes are increasing drought with an evident large side-effect in the agriculture in Mediterranean countries. Artificial Intelligence can now be a valid support to to interpret the signals of nature and predict the behaviors and needs of crops with particular reference to the correct use of the water resource.

Funded by the Malta Council for Science and Technology under the R&I Fusion Program, Maltese company WES Trade has launched the IRRIGOPTIMAL pilot project in Malta and Gozo.

IRRIGOPTIMAL is an integrated system conceived with the aim to tackle water scarcity, making use of a set of technologies from analytics, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, IoT, Big Data management, detection sensors and mechanical actuators. 

The work is carried on with the support of the Institute of Earth Systems, Division of Rural Sciences and Food Systems of the University of Malta (UoM) that is analysing data coming from sensors deployed in Malta and Gozo which were given as pilot test area by Koperattivi Malta and private farmers in Gozo working for the Gozitan company Farmer Foods. 

The pilot project is giving the possibility to refine a Decision Support System designed by UoM agronomists to support farmers in the correct usage of water depending on the monitored status of health of their crops and through correlations identified by IRRIGOPTIMAL. The system will provide prompt alert to support farmers and give indication on the correct amount of water to be used in the monitored zones. This value is given through an algorithm which merges live data from the soil and the crop, meteorological and theoretical data.

IRRIGOPTIMAL also includes the automation of the irrigation actuators piloted to help the farmers to save water consumption using the quantity of water calculated by the systems for an optimal irrigation while reducing the human effort in the field.

According to a study previously carried out by the same department on potted herbs, it would show the importance of reliable indicators that display the responsiveness of the crop to water stress in order to determine the best choice to make the final product of excellent quality.

IRRIGOPTIMAL pilot project will be carried on till early 2023 and will merge information and results coming from lab analysis, measurements, in-situ sensors and other parameters necessary to understand better tailor the response of IRRIGOPTIMAL to tackle water scarcity. From previous pilot studies carried on by WES trade in Malta, water consumption can be reduced by 35 to 40 per cent compared to the current values.

“We expect IRRIGOPTIMAL to be a leading system to support Malta to reach water scarcity reduction targets in the incoming years,” said Alessio Bucaioni, CEO of WES Trade.

“Working jointly with agronomists supervised by Prof. Everaldo Attard from UoM will help us in tailoring the system to be much more accurate and predict the optimal water consumption. Due to the recent drought we are having a large request of IRRIGOPTIMAL in Italy and Greece by local Cooperatives to reach optimal irrigation for orange and peach trees and reduce the heavy costs and tackle scarcity of water in the Mediterranean areas.”

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