Arduino Edge Control makes agriculture smarter

Article By : Maurizio Di Paolo Emilio

Arduino Edge Control is applicable in precision agriculture and other applications in which intelligence is a must.

Arduino launched its new board, Arduino Edge Control, a remote monitoring and control solution optimized for outdoor environments. In an interview with EE Times, CEO Fabio Violante noted how the Arduino Edge Control is applicable in precision agriculture and other applications in which intelligence is a must. Power can be supplied by a solar cell or a classic DC power supply, and the board can deploy AI on the edge. It can be expanded with 2G/3G/CatM1/NB-IoT modems, LoRa, Sigfox, and Wi-Fi/Bluetooth connectivity and managed remotely via the Arduino or third-party clouds.

“The board has been designed to consume the least possible power and only keeps turned on the essential hardware related to external interrupts [for example, from watermark sensors] and RTC [for interval time wakeup],” said Violante. “Thanks to these solutions, the board can run for up to two years on a 12-V/4-Ah lead battery in a real application. In addition to the above, the board has a solar panel battery charger, which allows for charging of 12-V lead batteries, effectively extending the lifetime forever.”

Smart agriculture

The Arduino Edge Control can connect a variety of external solutions such as sensors and actuators to control trigger valves, which are widely used in agriculture, as well as provide intelligent real-time data processing to reduce the risks associated with various activities. Violante said that the processor used in the Arduino Edge Control is the nRF52840, the same we have on Nano BLE, and it is compatible with many libraries for AI, such as TensorFlow micro.

The nRF52840 SoC is a member of the nRF52 Series SoC family. It offers generous memory availability for both flash and RAM, which are prerequisites for such demanding applications. The nRF52840 is built around the 32-bit ARM Cortex-M4 CPU, with floating-point unit running at 64 MHz. The ARM TrustZone CryptoCell cryptographic unit is included on-chip and brings an extensive range of cryptographic options that execute highly efficiently independent of the CPU.

Real-time data can be about weather conditions, soil quality, and crop growth, all of which are valuable to the business of agriculture, offering control over crop efficiency and production. Violante explained how the Arduino Edge Control can increase crop quality and reduce human error by automating processes such as irrigation, fertilization, or pest control.

Figure 1: Arduino Edge Control. Example of a typical application for a solution including two Arduino MKR boards.

“Given the professional nature of this board, we decided not to put sensors onboard that will suffer from the final setting used by the customers,” said Violante. “Instead, we provided enough I/O to allow customers to connect their preferred external sensors, weather stations, etc.

“During the development, we had different collaborations to validate and test the Edge Control,” he added. “One of them is with a European company (Challenge Agriculture) that specializes in precision farming and watering. There are now different active projects ongoing for deploying the Edge Control in the field.”

Figure 2: Technical specifications of Arduino Edge Control

Specific applications include automated greenhouses, i.e., managing humidity and temperature automatically to ensure the best environment for growing crops, minimizing carbon emissions, and increasing economic yields. “This board is mainly targeted to stationary applications; therefore, a default GPS module was deemed redundant, as the position of the board can be recorded during installation,” said Violante. “In any case, we have a compatible GPS shield that can be plugged onto this board.”

The inclusion of an Arduino MKR GPS Shield allows optimal crop rotation and acquisition of geospatial data. Another application is hydroponics, i.e., the growth of plants without soil that requires special care to maintain the necessary conditions for optimal growth. Another application that Arduino highlights is the growth of fungi that require perfect temperature and humidity. The numerous sensors and connectivity options offer a method of control that, thanks to open-source programming, can reach great heights.

This article was originally published on EE Times Europe.

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