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Assuring Malaysia’s food security through IOT and analytics

Working with the Ministry of Agriculture’s Integrated Agricultural Development (IADA) Project, Abbaco Controls, a Malaysian automation company and Intel played a ground-breaking role in creating decentralised automated water supply management in agriculture in Malaysia. This is also the first water irrigation automation project in Malaysian rice fields. Employing the Internet of Things (IOT) in which data is transferred over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction as well as big data analytics (BDA), Abbaco Controls is set to become a game-changer in creating a water demand management system that can provide local rice farmers with immediate access to information on water levels as well as remotely control water gates, with the potential of boosting national rice production capacity with the end objective of achieving rice supply self-sufficiency.

Challenges:
In Malaysia about 70% of the available water resources are consumed for rice production. An improvement of water use in rice production will result in significant water efficiency.  Previous solutions used proprietary hardware and software, and these were expensive to maintain and did not provide rich capabilities as the current solution.  Due to the need for human monitoring, the irrigation system is manually controlled and this hampers effective production of rice.

Solution:
Intel and Abbaco worked together on water gate automation control for rice fields in Malaysia. With the Intel IOT Gateway, Abbaco is able to integrate devices like water level sensors, penstock actuator controls, solar power system, temperature and humidity monitoring sensors as 3G connections.  Control of the water gates is now automated, requiring minimal intervention.

iot-bda-rice-field

Sensors and data analytics automate the water gates at rice fields, minimizing human intervention

Farmers are now able to obtain accurate status of water flow in real time, increasing farming efficiency.  Trusted data is shared to the cloud, delivering added value with data analytics and data sharing with other systems via APIs for actionable information like weather forecasting and water availability prediction. Users can get immediate access to water level data and control the water gates remotely.  Data can be shared for more insights and prediction of water availability – this can improve rice production and reduce dependence on rice imports.

Business Benefits:
The successful deployment of the water demand management system has transformed the lives of rice farmers; with the Intel IoT Gateway, they can get immediate access to water-level data and remotely control the water gate from anywhere in the world.  Users can also compare water levels with weather data, predict upcoming water availability and share data for more insights. This means rice production is improved, potentially reducing imports. At the same time, there is sufficient water for other uses during the dry season.

The current solution enables lower total cost of ownership (TCO) of 30% compared to the previous solution.  Accurate irrigation helps increase rice production up to three times a year where it was previously only twice yearly.  This solution enables faster time to market and increased efficiency in rice production. Technologically it brings another advantage whereby this solution uses industry-standard protocols that allows integration with many controllers.

iot-bda-rice-field-infographic

The Future:
The automated irrigation system solution will be extended to other rice fields in Malaysia.  If every rice field has this solution, water irrigation can be properly monitored to provide a near perfect irrigation system. This could potentially result in an additional 20% increase in overall rice production, leading to self-sufficiency where no rice imports would be needed. This project also provides the foundation for Abbaco to scale to adjacent opportunities in water recycling, aqua agriculture and flood management.

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