We have recently been focusing on building a hydroponics trial whose watering is automated. A timer controls when water is turned on and off in each greenhouse. Automation of the watering system is one of the necessary components of a "large" scale hydroponic system and it is probably the most daunting aspect of utilizing the technology for Jordan Valley farmers. Pictured below is our automation system. It cost us $110. A rainbird timer, three electrical plugs for clean connections, and two relays to start and stop 2 independent pumps which water 3, 250m2, greenhouses. This is no great feat of engineering but going through the process of putting it together (thank you Darren) showed our team that even "simple" interventions need clear instructions if they are really going to be adoptable.
|A Rainbird timer and two relays, one for independent control of each watering system|
Simple / Doable / Inexpensive / Reproducible / Locally Sourced / Effective / Proven
These words are the hallmarks of our smallholder farmer engagement program. Hydroponics is shown the world over to reduce the need for chemical treatment of crops, to enhance production volume and produce uniformity, to reduce labor costs, to end the need for physical and chemical soil preparation, to REDUCE the quantity of synthetic fertilizer required, and to save a very significant amount of water. We believe that with simplification and clear communication hydroponics can be a profitable and environmentally positive intervention even in a developing world market. We believe that it can be a feasible tool for smallholders to reduce costs, enhance productivity, and increase crop quality to command higher market prices.
We will keep readers up to date with specific production numbers and costs as the season progresses.