By Emmanuel Elebeke & Maranatha Ahiaba
The National Space Research and Development Agency, NASDRA on Monday unveiled an automated irrigation system for all year round farming.
The system is designed to help farmers irrigate their farms without physically being at the farm.
The solar-powered technology, experts says has the capacity to reduce hours and days usually spent by farmers trying to irrigate their farms.
The system, according to NASDRA, can irrigate a farm without the owner physically going there and can be repeated in three different ways.
Presenting the technology to minister of Science and Technology, head Instrumentation Division, NASDRA, Engr. Lanre Daniyan, explained that the solution is meant for all year round farming irrespective the season.
With the system, Engr. Daniyan said a farmer can pick his phone and ask the system how dry is my farm or wet his farm is and place a command, depending on what the response from the phone.
‘‘If you are at the farm, probably doing some work like, harvesting and you need to wash your crops or do something that requires water, you can just push the black tiny switch for manual operation. Your farm can have where you need water for animals you can also use the manual switch.
‘‘The manual switch is there for emergency need of water. But if there is no emergency need for water you can just irrigate from the comfort of your home. You can automate it to irrigate for you without your knowledge, it just monitor your soil regularly and feed it with water when needed.’’
‘‘First, you have to do this in the morning. You don’t irrigate in the afternoon. You do it between 8 and 9am. The system keeps checking the soil condition of your farm. Is it dry, is it ok, or wet. Once it is dry and the time is between 8 and 9, the system triggers itself on and irrigates the farm.
‘‘You might be sleeping when this is happening. When the water is ok on the soil, the system puts itself off. You can check how dry or wet your soil is through your phone. The phone has now become a tool for many things.’’
According to Daniyan, the technology was assembled in Nigeria with only few things purchased abroad.
‘‘This is an indigenous technology and the more you produce them, the less the cost of purchasing them. The more you produce, the cheaper it becomes. Just like the computer, when it first came it was only for the rich but when it entered the market in mass, it became cheaper and affordable. ‘‘The more we improved on it, the smaller it becomes. The first we produced was bigger than this and as time goes on it will become smaller,’’ he added.
Receiving the technology, the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, expressed delight with the innovation and described it as the first indigenous automated irrigation system in the country.
With the system, the minister said farmers can now have agriculture all year round.
‘‘I am very happy that this is happening at this time that we are working very hard to ensure that there is food security in Nigeria.
‘‘What we have witnessed here today is very important. This is the first indigenous automated irrigation system in the country.
What this is doing for us is that; we can now have agriculture all year round. What has been inhibiting the resources or revenue going to our farmers is that, very often they farm only during the rainy season and cannot farm during the dry season because they don’t have enough water in the soil to support and grow all this plants. But what we have seen here today will help our farmers to farm all year round.
‘‘During the dry season, you will have sunlight to help you operate this solar panel so that you can have power to irrigate. There is sunlight in most part of the country to power this irrigation system. It will also help us to have young people to now show interest in farming because many young people will naturally come into farming if farming is lucrative.’’
Onu noted that the innovation was an attestation that the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari is determined to reverse the situation we had in the past, where we had to import most of the food that we needed into the country.
He said, ‘‘Today we are growing more rice than we did previously and we are also making very important impact with other crops. It is important for Nigerians to see that space science and technology is very important in helping us to achieve rapid economic development.
‘‘Space science and technology is not just what everybody thinks like sending a man or a woman to the moon. It is far more than that. But arising from the knowledge that we get from space science and technology, we can knock on all the vital sectors of the economy including agriculture. There is no sector that is left out. They get all the benefits arising from space science and technology research.’
While, assuring that NASDRA will do more, the minister said the ministry was working in areas of artificial intelligence to make sure that not just agriculture but all sectors of the economy benefit from technology.
For him, the goal is to make Nigerian economy knowledge based and innovation-driven.
In his remarks, the Director General NASDRA, Prof. Seide Mohammad, said the concern of NASDRA is to develop the technology and commercialize it to the private sector.
He said the concept had already been proved, and is waiting for prospective buyers from the private sector to negotiate for the acquisition of the patent.
‘‘You all know the cost of solar panel. It is not cheap. But I will allow the commercial persons to discuss with us first. Certainly it is cheap and the labor cost of this country and some of these materials are developed locally.
‘‘We have tasted it on different farms for the past 6 months base on different soil type and we believe it is now ready for private people who are ready to acquire them. It is also important to inform you that the patents is already on and we hope to conclude that as soon as possible,’’ the DG said.
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