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Bua, C.; Adami, D.; Giordano, S. GymHydro: An Innovative Modular Small-Scale Smart Agriculture System for Hydroponic Greenhouses. Electronics 2024, 13, 1366.

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In response to the challenges posed by climate change, including extreme weather events, such as heavy rainfall and droughts, the agricultural sector is increasingly seeking solutions for the efficient use of resources, particularly water. Pivotal aspects of smart agriculture include the establishment of weather-independent systems and the implementation of precise monitoring and control of plant growth and environmental conditions. Hydroponic cultivation techniques have emerged as transformative solutions with the potential to reduce water consumption for cultivation and offer a sheltered environment for crops, protecting them from the unpredictable impacts of climate change. However, a significant challenge lies in the frequent need for human intervention to ensure the efficiency and effectiveness of these systems. This paper introduces a novel system with a modular architecture, offering the ability to incorporate new functionalities without necessitating a complete system redesign. The autonomous hydroponic greenhouse, designed and implemented in this study, maintains stable environmental parameters to create an ideal environment for cultivating tomato plants. Actuators, receiving commands from a cloud application situated at the network’s edge, automatically regulate environmental conditions. Decision-making within this application is facilitated by a PID control algorithm, ensuring precision in control commands transmitted through the MQTT protocol and the NGSI-LD message format. The system transitioned from a single virtual machine in the public cloud to edge computing, specifically on a Raspberry Pi 3, to address latency concerns. In this study, we analyzed various delay aspects and network latency to better understand their significance in delays. This transition resulted in a significant reduction in communication latency and a reduction in total service delay, enhancing the system’s real-time responsiveness. The utilization of LoRa communication technology connects IoT devices to a gateway, typically located at the main farm building, addressing the challenge of limited Internet connectivity in remote greenhouse locations. Monitoring data are made accessible to end-users through a smartphone app, offering real-time insights into the greenhouse environment. Furthermore, end-users have the capability to modify system parameters manually and remotely when necessary. This approach not only provides a robust solution to climate-induced challenges but also enhances the efficiency and intelligence of agricultural practices. The transition to digitization poses a significant challenge for farmers. Our proposed system not only represents a step forward toward sustainable and precise agriculture but also serves as a practical demonstrator, providing farmers with a key tool during this crucial digital transition. The demonstrator enables farmers to optimize crop growth and resource management, concretely showcasing the benefits of smart and precise agriculture.

Keywords: Internet of Things; smart agriculture; LoRa; NGSI-LD; hydroponic greenhouse; Node-RED; edge computing; smart lighting; PID controller