Thanks to connected sensors and a mobile application, Telaqua allows farmers to monitor, program and optimize their irrigation networks. Already equipping some thirty farms with several hundred connected sensors, the solution developed by the company based in Aix-en-Provence has also been implemented as part of a technical pilot carried out in partnership with Ombrea company.
Created in 2018, Telaqua aims to support farmers practicing irrigation. To do this, the company offers to equip their irrigation systems with connected sensors, linked to a mobile application, which thus allow them both to be alerted if a problem occurs, but also to carry out planning actions. and obtain an analysis of the operation of the system. Thanks to this use of the IoT¹, but also, in the future, of machine learning, one of Telaqua’s objectives is to make the management of these irrigation systems increasingly intelligent, as its co-founder explains to us. and current manager Sébastien Demech.
Engineering Techniques: How was Telaqua born?
Sebastien Demech: The idea of creating the company came from my partner Nicolas Carvallo. He is Franco-Chilean and his father is an expert in irrigation systems in Chile. Nicolas had created a first company there and then returned to France after this experience. That’s when we met and we thought that there was something to do in this area in France. I was a computer engineer, and therefore had no specific skills on the subject, but I liked the idea and the current went well with Nicolas…
Did the Aix-en-Provence region, in which you chose to set up, have an influence on your project?
I’m originally from Marseille, so it was interesting for me to come back to the region. But above all, we found an association of irrigating farmers based in Aix-en-Provence. So it made sense to choose the South.
What are the different hardware elements on which your solution is based?
We have developed a plug & play pressure sensor, the “Mano”, which measures both the pressure in the system and the water flow. We also offer a communication box, the Agromote. This is the “monitoring” part of the irrigation system and helps ensure there are no water leaks or other anomalies. With this same box, we will also be able to control valves or pumps and program them remotely, which allows you to plan your irrigation. The advantage of combining these elements lies precisely in the fact, when planning irrigation, of being able to ensure that the valves are open, that the pumps are working well and therefore that each plant has received the right amount of water. ‘water. Moreover, an irrigation schedule being based on a model, one can be certain, with this system, that the quantities of water supplied correspond to those integrated in the model. If ever everything did not go as planned, we will be able to modify its model. We had initially chosen to have the assembly of this equipment carried out in Germany, but it finally turned out that a very good assembler was present in Marseille, so we decided to call on him and it is happening. very good.
What network do you use to transmit the data?
We use the LoRaWAN network. The coverage is very good, but we can also, if necessary, install gateways, gateways that make it possible to create a local LoRa network and then transmit the data to the cloud via 3G/4G, or even by satellite. We adopt this solution in particular for projects carried out abroad.
Once transmitted, how do you use this data? What information can you glean from it?
We display all the data on a mobile and web application, which allows farmers – be it the crop manager, the technician, or even the manager – both to be alerted if a problem arises, but also to plan, in having an action on the connected objects and also to obtain an analysis: the user receives graphs, reports which allow him to analyze the operation of his irrigation system. We also have, behind this, an “AI” brick that we are building, which will come to help the farmer in his maintenance. The objective is to carry out more and more predictive maintenance. If I take the typical example of a filter, the objective is to plan its cleaning even before it is completely clogged, in order to avoid a loss of pressure. We have been developing these artificial intelligence algorithms in partnership with the University of Aix-Marseille since the beginning of the year. We did not have, at the beginning, a sufficient quantity of data, but we will now be able to exploit our databases which have been enriched over time, in order to determine the type of AI necessary and enrich this same data. The idea is indeed also to integrate other types of data, such as the weather or various agronomic parameters.
Concretely, how can an irrigating farmer benefit from this solution?
The farmer must purchase the sensors and subscribe to a subscription to access the network and the application. Its amount varies according to the number of sensors. The entire data analysis, alerts, etc. part is thus included in the application and accessible at will for the user. Alerts can be sent by sms, email or push.
What is the cost of this solution?
Depending on the sensors, prices range from €300 to €1,000. The number of sensors that we install on the valve will vary depending on the type of crop. For arboriculture, there can be one valve every two or three hectares, while market gardening requires several valves per hectare. The cost is in any case on average between 500 and 600 € per valve.
Does the implementation of the sensors require modifying the pre-existing irrigation installation?
No. We install on existing systems, mainly today on drip type systems. We are currently very little present in sprinkler irrigation.
Last February, you entered into a strategic partnership with the company Ombrea, a specialist in climate management and crop protection against climatic hazards. What are the objectives of this alliance?
Our two companies were created almost at the same time, and close to each other. So we naturally met. Ombrea is particularly specialized in connected shade structures and was looking for a solution to manage irrigation. The partnership will therefore focus on that. We will take care of the maintenance part and opening/closing of valves, and Ombrea of all its ecosystem allowing to create a microclimate above the plants. We have produced a technical pilot, which will allow us to carry out the first tests and then we will see where it will take us…! This pilot is installed on a farm in the Var dedicated to the cultivation of peonies. The objective is to reduce water consumption, but also to automate irrigation in order to save time for the farmer and improve the quality of the flowers. To manage the shadehouses, Ombrea uses weather data, humidity probes implanted in the ground, sunlight sensors… They will then combine all this data to see what the plants’ needs are, and will send them to us so that we adjusted the irrigation parameters accordingly.
Do you have other partnership projects of this type? How many farms currently benefit from your solution?
Absolutely ! We have other potential partners with whom we are in discussions. Our goal is to create a real ecosystem around irrigation. We have so far equipped around thirty farms, which represents approximately two to three hundred sensors in operation today. We expect to accelerate strongly in the coming months, especially internationally. We are currently a team of 19 people, but we are constantly recruiting, especially sales people as well as web and electronic developers. We therefore aim to reach around thirty employees by the end of the year.
What are the possible prospects for technological evolution on which you are working?
The technology is mature, it works very well. We have already carried out several installations in France, Europe, Africa and South America. However, there are, of course, always possible improvements. In particular, we seek to increase energy autonomy, we are working on eco-design… The devices currently operate with a lithium battery, to be replaced every two years, the objective, in the long term, would be to make them autonomous in energy. There are multiple ways to achieve this, it’s up to us to find the best one.
¹ Internet of Things
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Telaqua: connected irrigation | Engineering Techniques
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