The technology was developed by the University of Georgia to help farms in the state that are currently facing the worst drought since the 1950s and depend on irrigation to survive.
The system uses low-cost sensors and GPS to gather data and let farmers know precisely when and where to water and could reduce water use by 30 percent. The Guardian reports, "the sensors, encased in PVC pipes, gather temperature and moisture data from different soil depths and at multiple locations. Antennae fitted to the pipe then relay the soil conditions to a computer, where the data is reviewed and analysed by crop consultants."
For farmers, that wealth of information means not wasting electricity to pump water when certain fields don't need it and it means not wasting water on low-lying areas that the data shows stay saturated from run-off. The technology also saves fuel because the farmers don't have to drive out into the fields everyday to check on things -- their computer tells them all they need to know.
The sensor-based technology builds on previous solutions the university has developed such as low-pressure irrigation systems that don't lose water to wind or evaporation and technology that controls individual spouts so that water isn't sprayed where it's not needed. Those advances had already cut water use by at least 20 percent.
The new system will be deployed in Georgia, Kansas and Nebraska, all states facing harsh droughts.