Making Irrigation More Sustainable
Scotts, global leader in the law care industry, came to Synapse with the idea of developing a smart irrigation system that can sense not just moisture in the soil but also nutrient content. Rather than using more water than necessary or over-fertilizing, this sensor system would inform what the ideal quantities of water and fertilizer needed are based on the chemical composition of the soil, and provide the appropriate amounts at regular intervals.
There were a number of smart irrigation systems on the market at this point, but none included fertilization. Scotts’ aimed to make a first-of-its-kind ‘fertigation’ system that could not only water but also fertilize efficiently.
The project kicked off with a market overview in order to inform future phases. Synapse’s team completed an evaluation of multiple sensor and irrigation systems already available on the market, in the hopes that some of the components of those systems could be integrated into the new concept.
From there, our engineers moved on to the redesign of an existing Scotts valve for a next generation of systems, completing an architecture phase to reduce costs, improve materials, and optimize performance.
Challenges to Adoption
While this type of system could significantly increase the efficiency and sustainability of irrigation, the team recognized several barriers to large-scale adoption:
- Millions of current U.S. homes have yards, but few have in-ground irrigation systems, and the systems already in place would be difficult to retrofit.
- We explored an above-ground approach, but that would mean having to run multiple hoses out in the open—talk about a tripping hazard!
- By far the biggest challenge is the market shift needed on the fertilization side. For both businesses and consumers, the investment required to implement a large-scale fertigation system would be significant. How could we make it realistic for consumers to make the jump rather than stick to the convenience of buying bags of fertilizer or sprays?
Is it Finally Time?
Our efforts in sustainability have increased since this project. We hope that discussing the potential of this system and the prior barriers to market may spark inspiration for the continued development of similar technology applications.