Irrinet is a DSS providing irrigation advice for main water-demanding crops: real-time irrigation scheduling via SMS on how much and when to irrigate farm crops
Water demand management in agriculture is a key issue for Emilia-Romagna policy makers. Farmers and growers are facing major challenges due to climate change, scarcity of water resource & quality-oriented consumers. IRRINET is a tool developed involving land reclamation authorities, farmers and research centres in the frame of Emilia-Romagna Regional Action Plans for Rural Development from 2007 to 2020. The service has been improved year-by-year following the needs through users’ feedback and applying the field research results. Each parameter used in the model has been calibrated during field trial for almost 40 years to evaluate the variability of the crops, soil and climate condition. It makes IRRINET a robust system that respond efficiently to the majority of agricultural local conditions. The platform allows customization of the service as soilwater sensor integration, user specified crop coefficient and actuators control. Everything is connected through web server to the input web-db. IRRINET system is in constant develpment, integrating solutions and data coming from different systems and actors. Moreover it is an open system that permits the integration of soil, crop and environental sensors within the IRRINET regional DSS: farmers can integrate their own soil-plant sensor system benefitting from an increased realiability of the monitored data, to improve the availability of site-specific information and to automatize data integration and interactions.
Irrinet requires very low management budget which is supported by the local Water Board, provided for free to final users.
Operating cost of the platform is around 0.02 €/ha for a whole irrigation season
Development of new features financed by R&D projects on H2020, regional public & private funds
Evidence of success
The system provides a Big Data repository about crop irrigations and crop irrigation requirements. It uses a network of 1.258 meteorological stations. The system has been adopted by 16 Italian regions and 69 local water management boards, serving 8000 farms and 30000 fields. In the last 5 years IRRIFRAME users have increased affecting more than 25% of the irrigation valley and 30% of farmers. The regional government assure its commitment with specific measures of the Rural Development Plan.
Potential for learning or transfer
Despite the huge number of irrigation scheduling system, the majority of farmers is not yet using those tools. According to the survey conducted in 2019, digital gap and a cultural resistance to the adoption of new technologies are among the main obstacles to the digitization of the agrifood sector. That said, Irrinet has three main characteristics that can be applied in other contexts and that intercept widespread problems in the adoption of digital solutions in agriculture: 1) the DSS communicates via SMS with the famers registered on the platform; 2) it can be integrated with sensor systems that private individuals can develop independently; 3) it is designed to be a multi-source system, therefore to incorporate data that comes from soil-sensors, drones or satellite.