The National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) on Tuesday said patenting of its Automated Irrigation System (AIS) would enable mass production and improve mechanised farming in the country.

Dr Bonaventure Okere, the Acting Director of the agency’s Centre for Basic Space Sciences (CBSS) in Nsukka, Enugu State, made this known in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja.

Okere said that the AIS had been approved by the Ministry of Science and Technology but required patenting by the National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion (NOTAP).

According to him, designing and manufacturing of the AIS is  targeted at achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to meet the need for year-round farming and enhance agricultural produce.

“The challenges posed by conventional irrigation practices are better appreciated with large-scale farming, where it often requires days to manually irrigate a farm.

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“Conventional methods of irrigation are labour-intensive, relatively ineffective due to poor water distribution and lack of monitoring and smart control mechanisms.

“This motivated us to develop an automated irrigation system that will perform intelligent and independent farm irrigation and characterise crop environmental thriving conditions.

“The design of this system features an automation and control implementation board where the system’s logical itinerary is handled.

“It is interfaced with advanced communications modules for wireless operation capabilities; sensor array for specific science interest are interfaced and programmed in the system to provide information on crop environmental thriving conditions.

“We are waiting for NOTAP to finish the processing for the patent of the AIS. When it is patented, it will enable us mass produce it and enhance agriculture,” Okere said.

The director also described the AIS as having a timing system embedded in it to implement time-related automation.

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According to him, the solar power system will be designed to provide adequate and reliable power for both the pump system and the control systems.

Okere said that the AIS was designed to automatically alert the farmer when the soil moisture level of the farm was low and needed watering.

He said that the farmer would be prompted through Short Message Service (SMS) once the irrigation system was activated to switch the irrigation pump `on’.

According to him, a user of the irrigation system will also have the privilege of querying the system via simple SMS command to get real time readings of the farm environment.

“A user can query soil moisture values, soil temperature values, ambient temperature and humidity, which will be sent as SMS from the system to the users’ mobile phone,” he said.

Okere said that the AIS could foster research in the area of crop sciences by supplying data on environmental parameters critical to crop yield.

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He said that if the AIS was installed and commissioned, it had the capacity to perform independent smart irrigation under dynamic environmental conditions.

“The AIS has the capability to perform farm environmental characterisation and data presentation that affords research and good knowledge of crop thriving conditions.

“It is an equipment that can be remotely operated using mobile phones and can send feedbacks to authorised users,” he said.

NAN reports that Prof. Seidu Mohammed, the Director-General, NASRDA, presented the AIS to Dr Ogbonnaya Onuh, the Minister of Science and Technology in June.

The AIS will be utilised as the first equipment for mechanised farming which will deploy satellite technology to boost food security in the country.